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Title: A Book of the Play - Studies and Illustrations of Histrionic Story, Life, and Character
Author: Cook, Dutton, 1829-1883
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Book of the Play - Studies and Illustrations of Histrionic Story, Life, and Character" ***


_Studies and Illustrations of Histrionic Story, Life, and Character._






In One Volume






This book, as I explained in the preface to its first edition,
published in 1876, is designed to serve and entertain those interested
in the transactions of the Theatre. I have not pretended to set forth
anew a formal and complete History of the Stage; it has rather been my
object to traverse by-paths connected with the subject--to collect and
record certain details and curiosities of histrionic life and
character, past and present, which have escaped or seemed unworthy the
notice of more ambitious and absolute chroniclers. At most I would
have these pages considered as but portions of the story of the
British Theatre whispered from the side-wings.

Necessarily, the work is derived from many sources, owes much to
previous labours, is the result of considerable searching here and
there, collation, and selection. I have endeavoured to make
acknowledgment, as opportunity occurred, of the authorities I stand
indebted to, for this fact or that story. I desire, however, to make
express mention of the frequent aid I have received from Mr. J. Payne
Collier's admirable "History of English Dramatic Poetry" (1831),
containing Annals of the Stage to the Restoration. Mr. Collier, having
enjoyed access to many public and private collections of the greatest
value, has much enriched the store of information concerning our
Dramatic Literature amassed by Malone, Stevens, Reed, and Chalmers.
Referring to numberless published and unpublished papers, to sources
both familiar and rare, Mr. Collier has been enabled, moreover, to
increase in an important degree our knowledge of the Elizabethan
Theatre, its manners and customs, ways and means. I feel that I owe
to his archæological studies many apt quotations and illustrative
passages I could scarcely have supplied from my own unassisted

Some additions to the text I have deemed expedient. The few
errors--they were very few and unimportant--discovered in the first
edition I have corrected in the present publication; certain
redundancies I have suppressed; here and there I have ventured upon
condensation, and generally I have endeavoured to bring my statements
into harmony with the condition of the stage at the present moment.
Substantially, however, the "Book of the Play" remains what it was at
the date of its original issue, when it was received by the reading
public with a kindness and cordiality I am not likely to forget.










    "PAY HERE"































       *       *       *       *       *



The man who, having witnessed and enjoyed the earliest performance of
Thespis and his company, followed the travelling theatre of that
primeval actor and manager, and attended a second and a third
histrionic exhibition, has good claim to be accounted the first
playgoer. For recurrence is involved in playgoing, until something of
a habit is constituted. And usually, we may note, the playgoer is
youthful. An old playgoer is almost a contradiction in terms. He is
merely a young playgoer who has grown old. He talks of the plays and
players of his youth, but he does not, in truth, visit the theatre
much in his age; and invariably he condemns the present, and applauds
the past. Things have much degenerated and decayed, he finds; himself
among them, but of that fact he is not fully conscious. There are no
such actors now as once there were, nor such actresses. The drama has
declined into a state almost past praying for. This is, of course, a
very old story. "Palmy days" have always been yesterdays. Our
imaginary friend, mentioned above, who was present at the earliest of
stage exhibitions, probably deemed the second and third to be less
excellent than the first; at any rate, he assuredly informed his
friends and neighbours, who had been absent from that performance,
that they had missed very much indeed, and had by no means seen
Thespis at his best. Even nowadays, middle-aged playgoers, old enough
to remember the late Mr. Macready, are trumped, as it were, by older
playgoers, boastful of their memories of Kemble and the elder Kean.
And these players, in their day and in their turn, underwent
disparagement at the hands of veterans who had seen Garrick. Pope,
much as he admired Garrick, yet held fast to his old faith in
Betterton. From a boy he had been acquainted with Betterton. He
maintained Betterton to be the best actor he had ever seen. "But I
ought to tell you, at the same time," he candidly admitted, "that in
Betterton's time the older sort of people talked of Hart's being his
superior, just as we do of Betterton's being superior to those now."
So in the old-world tract, called "Historia Histrionica"--a dialogue
upon the condition of the early stage, first published in
1699--Trueman, the veteran Cavalier playgoer, in reply to Lovewit, who
had decided that the actors of his time were far inferior to Hart,
Mohun, Burt, Lacy, Clun, and Shatterel, ventures to observe: "If my
fancy and memory are not partial (for men of age are apt to be
over-indulgent to the thoughts of their youthful days), I dare assure
you that the actors I have seen before the war--Lowin, Taylor,
Pollard, and some others--were almost as far beyond Hart and his
company as those were beyond these now in being." In truth, age brings
with it to the playhouse recollections, regrets, and palled appetite;
middle life is too much prone to criticism, too little inclined to
enthusiasm, for the securing of unmixed satisfaction; but youth is
endowed with the faculty of admiring exceedingly, with hopefulness,
and a keen sense of enjoyment, and, above all, with very complete
power of self-deception. It is the youthful playgoers who are ever the
best friends of the players.

As a rule, a boy will do anything, or almost anything, to go to a
theatre. His delight in the drama is extreme--it possesses and absorbs
him completely. Mr. Pepys has left on record Tom Killigrew's "way of
getting to see plays when he was a boy." "He would go to the 'Red
Bull' (at the upper end of St. John Street, Clerkenwell), and when the
man cried to the boys--'Who will go and be a devil, and he shall see
the play for nothing?' then would he go in and be a devil upon the
stage, and so get to see plays." In one of his most delightful papers,
Charles Lamb has described his first visit to a theatre. He "was not
past six years old, and the play was 'Artaxerxes!' I had dabbled a
little in the 'Universal History'--the ancient part of it--and here
was the Court of Persia. It was being admitted to a sight of the past.
I took no proper interest in the action going on, for I understood not
its import, but I heard the word Darius, and I was in the midst of
'Daniel.' All feeling was absorbed in vision. Gorgeous vests, gardens,
palaces, princesses, passed before me. I knew not players. I was in
Persepolis for the time, and the burning idol of their devotion almost
converted me into a worshipper. I was awe-struck, and believed those
significations to be something more than elemental fires. It was all
enchantment and a dream. No such pleasure has since visited me but in
dreams." Returning to the theatre after an interval of some years, he
vainly looked for the same feelings to recur with the same occasion.
He was disappointed. "At the first period I knew nothing, understood
nothing, discriminated nothing. I felt all, loved all, wondered
all--'was nourished I could not tell how.' I had left the temple a
devotee, and was returned a rationalist. The same things were there
materially; but the emblem, the reference was gone! The green curtain
was no longer a veil drawn between two worlds, the unfolding of which
was to bring back past ages, to present a 'royal ghost'--but a certain
quantity of green baize, which was to separate the audience for a
given time from certain of their fellow-men who were to come forward
and pretend those parts. The lights--the orchestra lights--came up a
clumsy machinery. The first ring, and the second ring, was now but a
trick of the prompter's bell--which had been, like the note of the
cuckoo, a phantom of a voice; no hand seen or guessed at which
ministered to its warning. The actors were men and women painted. I
thought the fault was in them; but it was in myself, and the
alteration which those many centuries--of six short twelvemonths--had
wrought in me." Presently, however, Lamb recovered tone, so to speak,
as a playgoer. Comparison and retrospection soon yielded to the
present attraction of the scene, and the theatre became to him, "upon
a new stock, the most delightful of recreations."

Audiences have always been miscellaneous. Among them not only youth
and age, but rich and poor, wise and ignorant, good and bad, virtuous
and vicious, have alike found representation. The gallery and the
groundlings have been catered for not less than the spectators of the
boxes and private rooms; yet, upon the whole, the stage, from its
earliest period, has always provided entertainment of a reputable and
wholesome kind. Even in its least commendable condition--and this, so
far as England is concerned, we may judge to have been during the
reign of King Charles II.--it yet possessed redeeming elements. It was
never wholly bad, though it might now and then come very near to
seeming so. And what it was, the audience had made it. It reflected
their sentiments and opinions; it accorded with their moods and
humours; it was their creature; its performers were their most
faithful and zealous servants.

Playgoers, it appears, were not wont to ride to the theatre in coaches
until late in the reign of James I. Taylor, the water-poet, in his
invective against coaches, 1623, dedicated to all grieved "with the
world running on wheels," writes: "Within our memories our nobility
and gentry could ride well mounted, and sometimes walk on foot,
gallantly attended with fourscore brave fellows in blue coats, which
was a glory to our nation, far greater than forty of these leathern
tumbrels! Then, the name of coach was heathen Greek. Who ever saw, but
upon extraordinary occasions, Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Francis Drake
ride in a coach? They made small use of coaches; there were but few in
those times; and they were deadly foes to sloth and effeminacy. It is
in the memory of many when, in the whole kingdom, there was not one!
It is a doubtful question whether the devil brought tobacco into
England in a coach, for both appeared at the same time." According to
Stow, coaches were introduced here 1564, by Guilliam Boonen, who
afterwards became coachman to the queen. The first he ever made was
for the Earl of Rutland; but the demand rapidly increased, until there
ensued a great trade in coach-making, insomuch that a bill was brought
into Parliament, in 1601, to restrain the excessive use of such
vehicles. Between the coachmen and the watermen there was no very
cordial understanding, as the above quotation from Taylor sufficiently
demonstrates. In 1613 the Thames watermen petitioned the king, that
the players should not be permitted to have a theatre in London, or
Middlesex, within four miles of the Thames, in order that the
inhabitants might be induced, as formerly, to make use of boats in
their visits to the playhouses in Southwark. Not long afterwards
sedans came into fashion, still further to the prejudice of the
watermen. In the Induction to Ben Jonson's "Cynthia's Revels,"
performed in 1600, mention is made of "coaches, hobby-horses, and
foot-cloth nags," as in ordinary use. In 1631 the churchwardens and
constables, on behalf of the inhabitants of Blackfriars, in a petition
to Laud, then Bishop of London, prayed for the removal of the
playhouse from their parish, on the score of the many inconveniences
they endured as shopkeepers, "being hindered by the great recourse to
the playes, especially of coaches, from selling their commodities, and
having their wares many times broken and beaten off their stalls."
Further, they alleged that, owing to the great "recourse of coaches,"
and the narrowness of the streets, the inhabitants could not, in an
afternoon, "take in any provision of beere, coales, wood, or hay;" the
passage through Ludgate was many times stopped up, people "in their
ordinary going" much endangered, quarrels and bloodshed occasioned,
and disorderly people, towards night, gathered together under pretence
of waiting for those at the plays. Christenings and burials were many
times disturbed; persons of honour and quality dwelling in the parish
were restrained, by the number of coaches, from going out or coming
home in seasonable time, to "the prejudice of their occasions;" and it
was suggested that, "if there should happen any misfortune of fire,"
it was not likely that any order could possibly be taken, since, owing
to the number of the coaches, no speedy passage could be made for
quenching the fire, to the endangering both of the parish and of the
city. It does not appear that any action on the part of Laud or the
Privy Council followed this curious petition.

It seems clear that the Elizabethan audiences were rather an unruly
congregation. There was much cracking of nuts and consuming of pippins
in the old playhouses; ale and wine were on sale, and tobacco was
freely smoked by the upper class of spectators, for it was hardly yet
common to all conditions. Previous to the performance, and during its
pauses, the visitors read pamphlets or copies of plays bought at the
playhouse-doors, and, as they drank and smoked, played at cards. In
his "Gull's Horn Book," 1609, Dekker tells his hero, "before the play
begins, fall to cards;" and, winning or losing, he is bidden to tear
some of the cards and to throw them about, just before the entrance of
the prologue. The ladies were treated to apples, and sometimes applied
their lips to a tobacco-pipe. Prynne, in his "Histriomastix," 1633,
states that, even in his time, ladies were occasionally "offered the
tobacco-pipe" at plays. Then, as now, new plays attracted larger
audiences than ordinary. Dekker observes, in his "News from Hell,"
1606, "It was a comedy to see what a crowding, as if it had been at a
new play, there was upon the Acherontic strand." How the spectators
comported themselves upon these occasions, Ben Jonson, "the Mirror of
Manners," as Mr. Collier well surnames him, has described in his
comedy "The Case is Altered," acted at Blackfriars about 1599. "But
the sport is, at a new play, to observe the sway and variety of
opinion that passeth it. A man shall have such a confused mixture of
judgment poured out in the throng there, as ridiculous as laughter
itself. One says he likes not the writing; another likes not the plot;
another not the playing; and sometimes a fellow that comes not there
past once in five years, at a Parliament time or so, will be as
deep-mired in censuring as the best, and swear, by God's foot, he
would never stir his foot to see a hundred such as that is!" The
conduct of the gallants, among whom were included those who deemed
themselves critics and wits, appears to have usually been of a very
unseemly and offensive kind. They sat upon the stage, paying sixpence
or a shilling for the hire of a stool, or reclined upon the rushes
with which the boards were strewn. Their pages were in attendance to
fill their pipes; and they were noted for the capriciousness and
severity of their criticisms. "They had taken such a habit of dislike
in all things," says Valentine, in "The Case is Altered," "that they
will approve nothing, be it ever so conceited or elaborate; but sit
dispersed, making faces and spitting, wagging their upright ears, and
cry: 'Filthy, filthy!'" Ben Jonson had suffered much from the censure
of his audiences. In "The Devil is an Ass," he describes the demeanour
of a gallant occupying a seat upon the stage. Fitsdottrell says:

    To day I go to the Blackfriars playhouse,
    Sit in the view, salute all my acquaintance;
    Rise up between the acts, let fall my cloak;
    Publish a handsome man and a rich suit--
    And that's a special end why we go thither.

Of the cutpurses, rogues, and evil characters of both sexes who
frequented the old theatres, abundant mention is made by the poets and
satirists of the past. In this respect there can be no question that
the censure which was so liberally awarded was also richly merited.
Mr. Collier quotes from Edmund Gayton, an author who avowedly "wrote
trite things merely to get bread to sustain him and his wife," and who
published, in 1654, "Festivous Notes on the History of the renowned
Don Quixote," a curious account of the behaviour of our early
audiences at certain of the public theatres. "Men," it is observed,
"come not to study at a playhouse, but love such expressions and
passages which with ease insinuate themselves into their
capacities.... On holidays, when sailors, watermen, shoemakers,
butchers, and apprentices are at leisure, then it is good policy to
amaze those violent spirits with some tearing tragedy full of fights
and skirmishes ... the spectators frequently mounting the stage, and
making a more bloody catastrophe among themselves than the players
did." Occasionally, it appears, the audience compelled the actors to
perform, not the drama their programmes had announced, but some other,
such as "the major part of the company had a mind to: sometimes
'Tamerlane;' sometimes 'Jugurtha;' sometimes 'The Jew of Malta;' and,
sometimes, parts of all these; and, at last, none of the three taking,
they were forced to undress and put off their tragic habits, and
conclude the day with 'The Merry Milkmaids.'" If it so chanced that
the players were refractory, then "the benches, the tiles, the lathes,
the stones, oranges, apples, nuts, flew about most liberally; and as
there were mechanics of all professions, everyone fell to his own
trade, and dissolved a house on the instant, and made a ruin of a
stately fabric. It was not then the most mimical nor fighting man
could pacify; prologues nor epilogues would prevail; the Devil and the
Fool [evidently two popular characters at this time] were quite out of
favour; nothing but noise and tumult fills the house," &c. &c.

Concerning the dramatist of the time, upon the occasion of the first
performance of his play, his anxiety, irascibility, and peculiarities
generally, Ben Jonson provides sufficient information. "We are not so
officiously befriended by him," says one of the characters in the
Induction to "Cynthia's Revels," "as to have his presence in the
tiring-house, to prompt us aloud, stamp at the bookholder [or
prompter], swear at our properties, curse the poor tireman, rail the
musick out of tune, and sweat for every venial trespass we commit as
some author would." While, in the Induction to his "Staple of News,"
Jonson has clearly portrayed himself. "Yonder he is," says Mirth, in
reply to some remark touching the poet of the performance, "within--I
was in the tiring-house awhile, to see the actors dressed--rolling
himself up and down like a tun in the midst of them ... never did
vessel, or wort, or wine, work so ... a stewed poet!... he doth sit
like an unbraced drum, with one of his heads beaten out," &c. The
dramatic poets, it may be noted, were admitted gratis to the theatres,
and duly took their places among the spectators. Not a few of them
were also actors. Dekker, in his "Satiromastix," accuses Jonson of
sitting in the gallery during the performance of his own plays,
distorting his countenance at every line, "to make gentlemen have an
eye on him, and to make players afraid" to act their parts. A further
charge is thus worded: "Besides, you must forswear to venture on the
stage, when your play is ended, and exchange courtesies and
compliments with the gallants in the lords' rooms (or boxes), to make
all the house rise up in arms, and cry: 'That's Horace! that's he!
that's he! that's he that purges humours and diseases!'"

Jonson makes frequent complaint of the growing fastidiousness of his
audience, and nearly fifty years later, the same charge against the
public is repeated by Davenant, in the Prologue to his "Unfortunate
Lovers." He tells the spectators that they expect to have in two hours
ten times more wit than was allowed their silly ancestors in twenty
years, who

                        to the theatre would come,
    Ere they had dined, to take up the best room;
    There sit on benches not adorned with mats,
    And graciously did vail their high-crowned hats
    To every half-dressed player, as he still
    Through the hangings peeped to see how the house did fill.
    Good easy judging souls! with what delight
    They would expect a jig or target fight;
    A furious tale of Troy, which they ne'er thought
    Was weakly written so 'twere strongly fought.

As to the playgoers of the Restoration we have abundant information
from the poet Dryden, and the diarist Pepys. For some eighteen years
the theatres had been absolutely closed, and during that interval very
great changes had occurred. England, under Charles II., seemed as a
new and different country to the England of preceding monarchs. The
restored king and his courtiers brought with them from their exile in
France strange manners, and customs, and tastes. The theatre they
favoured was scarcely the theatre that had flourished in England
before the Civil War. Dryden reminds the spectators, in one of his

    You now have habits, dances, scenes, and rhymes,
    High language often, ay, and sense sometimes.

There was an end of dramatic poetry, as it was understood under
Elizabeth. Blank verse had expired or swooned away, never again to be
wholly reanimated. Fantastic tragedies in rhyme, after the French
pattern, became the vogue; and absolute translations from the French
and Spanish for the first time occupied the English stage. Shakespeare
and his colleagues had converted existing materials to dramatic uses,
but not as did the playwrights of the Restoration. In the Epilogue to
the comedy of "An Evening's Love; or, The Mock Astrologer," borrowed
from "Le Feint Astrologue" of the younger Corneille, Dryden, the
adapter of the play, makes jesting defence of the system of
adaptation. The critics are described as conferring together in the
pit on the subject of the performance:

                        They kept a fearful stir
    In whispering that he stole the Astrologer:
    And said, betwixt a French and English plot,
    He eased his half-tired muse on pace and trot.
    Up starts a Monsieur, new come o'er, and warm
    In the French stoop and pull-back of the arm:
    "Morbleu," dit-il, and cocks, "I am a rogue,
    But he has quite spoiled the 'Feigned Astrologue!'"

The poet is supposed to make excuse:

    He neither swore, nor stormed, as poets do,
    But, most unlike an author, vowed 'twas true;
    Yet said he used the French like enemies,
    And did not steal their plots but made them prize.

Dryden concludes with a sort of apology for his own productiveness,
and the necessity of borrowing that it involved:

    He still must write, and banquier-like, each day
    Accept new bills, and he must break or pay.
    When through his hands such sums must yearly run,
    You cannot think the stock is all his own.

Pepys, who, born in 1633, must have had experiences of youthful
playgoing before the great Civil War, finds evidence afterwards of
"the vanity and prodigality of the age" in the nightly company of
citizens, 'prentices, and others attending the theatre, and holds it a
grievance that there should be so many "mean people" in the pit at two
shillings and sixpence apiece. For several years, he mentions, he had
gone no higher than the twelvepenny, and then the eighteenpenny
places. Oftentimes, however, the king and his court, the Duke and
Duchess of York, and the young Duke of Monmouth, were to be seen in
the boxes. In 1662 Charles's consort, Catherine, was first exhibited
to the English public at the Cockpit Theatre in Drury Lane, when
Shirley's "Cardinal" was represented. Then there are accounts of
scandals and indecorums in the theatre. Evelyn reprovingly speaks of
the public theatres being abused to an "atheistical liberty." Nell
Gwynne is in front of the curtain prattling with the fops, lounging
across and leaning over them, and conducting herself saucily and
impudently enough. Moll Davis is in one box, and my Lady Castlemaine,
with the king, in another. Moll makes eyes at the king, and he at her.
My Lady Castlemaine detects the interchange of glances, and "when she
saw Moll Davies she looked like fire, which troubled me," said Mr.
Pepys, who, to do him justice, was often needlessly troubled about
matters with which, in truth, he had very little concern. There were
brawls in the theatre, and tipsiness, and much license generally. In
1682 two gentlemen, disagreeing in the pit, drew their swords and
climbed to the stage. There they fought furiously until a sudden
sword-thrust stretched one of the combatants upon the boards. The
wound was not mortal, however, and the duellists, after a brief
confinement by order of the authorities, were duly set at liberty.

The fop of the Restoration was a different creature to the Elizabethan
gallant. Etherege satirised him in his "Man of Mode; or, Sir Fopling
Flutter," Dryden supplying the comedy with an epilogue, in which he
fully described certain of the prevailing follies of the time in
regard to dress and manners. The audience are informed that

             None Sir Fopling him or him can call,
    He's knight of the shire and represents you all!
    From each he meets he culls whate'er he can;
    Legion's his name, a people in a man.

           *       *       *       *       *

    His various modes from various fathers follow;
    One taught the toss, and one the new French wallow;
    His sword-knot this, his cravat that designed;
    And this the yard-long snake he twirls behind.
    From one the sacred periwig he gained,
    Which wind ne'er blew nor touch of hat profaned.
    Another's diving bow he did adore,
    Which, with a shog, casts all the hair before,
    Till he with full decorum brings it back,
    And rises with a water-spaniel shake.

Upon another occasion the poet writes:

    But only fools, and they of vast estate,
    The extremity of modes will imitate,
    The dangling knee-fringe and the bib-cravat.

While the fops were thus equipped, the ladies wore vizard-masks, and
upon the appearance of one of these in the pit--

    Straight every man who thinks himself a wit,
    Perks up, and managing his comb with grace,
    With his white wig sets off his nut-brown face.

For it was the fashion of the gentlemen to toy with their soaring,
large-curled periwigs, smoothing them with a comb. Between the fops
and the ladies goodwill did not always prevail. The former were, no
doubt, addicted to gross impertinence in their conversation.

    Fop Corner now is free from civil war,
    White wig and vizard-mask no longer jar,
    France and the fleet have swept the town so clear.

So Dryden "prologuised" in 1672, attributing the absence of "all our
braves and all our wits" to the war which England, in conjunction with
France, had undertaken against the Dutch.

Queen Anne, in 1704, expressly ordered that "no woman should be
allowed, or presume to wear, a vizard-mask in either of the
theatres." At the same time it was commanded that no person, of what
quality soever, should presume to go behind the scenes, or come upon
the stage, either before or during the acting of any play; and that no
person should come into either house without paying the price
established for their respective places. And the disobedient were
publicly warned that they would be proceeded against, as "contemners
of our royal authority and disturbers of the public peace."

These royal commands were not very implicitly obeyed. Vizard-masks may
have been discarded promptly, but there was much crowding, behind the
scenes and upon the stage, of persons of quality for many years after.
Garrick, in 1762, once and for ever, succeeded in clearing the boards
of the unruly mob of spectators, and secured room to move upon the
scene for himself and his company. But it was only by enlarging his
theatre, and in such wise increasing the number of seats available for
spectators in the auditory of the house, that he was enabled to effect
this reform. From that date the playgoers of the past grew more and
more like the playgoers of the present, until the flight of time
rendered distinction between them no longer possible, and merged
yesterday in to-day. There must have been a very important change in
the aspect of the house, however, when hair powder went out of fashion
in 1795; when swords ceased to be worn--for, of course, then there
could be no more rising of the pit to slash the curtain and scenery,
to prick the performers, and to lunge at the mirrors and decorations;
when gold and silver lace vanished from coats and waistcoats, silks
and velvets gave place to broadcloth and pantaloons; and when,
afterwards, trousers covered those nether limbs which had before, and
for so long a period, been exhibited in silk stockings. Yet these
alterations were accomplished gradually, no doubt. All was not done in
a single night. Fashion makes first one convert, and then another, and
so on, until all are numbered among her followers and wear the livery
she has prescribed. Garrick's opinion of those playgoers of his time,
whom he at last banished from his stage, may be gathered from the
dialogue between Æsop and the Fine Gentleman, in his farce of "Lethe."
Æsop inquires: "How do you spend your evening, sir?" "I dress in the
evening," says the Fine Gentleman, "and go generally behind the
scenes of both playhouses; not, you may imagine, to be diverted with
the play, but to intrigue and show myself. I stand upon the stage,
talk loud, and stare about, which confounds the actors and disturbs
the audience. Upon which the galleries, who hate the appearance of one
of us, begin to hiss, and cry, 'Off, off!' while I, undaunted, stamp
my foot, so; loll with my shoulder, thus; take snuff with my right
hand, and smile scornfully, thus. This exasperates the savages, and
they attack us with volleys of sucked oranges and half-eaten pippins."
"And you retire?" "Without doubt, if I am sober; for orange will stain
silk, and an apple may disfigure a feature."

In the Italian opera-houses of London there have long prevailed
managerial ordinances touching the style of dress to be assumed by the
patrons of those establishments; the British playgoer, however,
attending histrionic performances in his native tongue has been left
to his own devices in that respect. It cannot be said that much harm
has resulted from the full liberty permitted him, or that neglect on
his part has impaired the generally attractive aspect of our
theatrical auditories. Nevertheless, occasional eccentricity has been
forthcoming, if only to incur rebuke. We may cite an instance or two.

In December, 1738, the editor of _The London Evening Post_ was thus
addressed by a correspondent assuming the character of Miss Townley:

     "I am a young woman of fashion who love plays, and should be
     glad to frequent them as an agreeable and instructive
     entertainment, but am debarred that diversion by my relations
     upon account of a sort of people who now fill or rather infest
     the boxes. I went the other night to the play with an aunt of
     mine, a well-bred woman of the last age, though a little formal.
     When we sat down in the front boxes we found ourselves
     surrounded by a parcel of the strangest fellows that ever I saw
     in my life; some of them had those loose kind of great-coats on
     which I have heard called _wrap-rascals_, with gold-laced hats,
     slouched in humble imitation of _stage-coachmen_; others aspired
     at being _grooms_, and had dirty boots and spurs, with black
     caps on, and long whips in their hands; a third sort wore scanty
     frocks, with little, shabby hats, put on one side, and clubs in
     their hands. My aunt whispered me that she never saw such a set
     of slovenly, unmannerly footmen sent to keep places in her life,
     when, to her great surprise, she saw those fellows, at the end
     of the act, pay the box-keeper for their places."

In 1730 the "Universal Spectator" notes: "The wearing of swords, at
the Court end of the town, is, by many polite young gentlemen, laid
aside; and instead thereof they carry large oak sticks, with great
heads and ugly faces carved thereon."

Elliston was, in 1827, lessee and manager of the Surrey Theatre.
"Quite an opera pit," he said to Charles Lamb, conducting him over the
benches of that establishment, described by Lamb as "the last retreat
of his every-day waning grandeur." The following letter--the
authenticity of which seems to be vouched for by the actor's
biographer--supplies a different view of the Surrey audience of that

     "_August 10th, 1827._

     "SIR,--I really must beg to call your attention to a most
     abominable nuisance which exists in your house, and which is, in
     a great measure, the cause of the minor theatres not holding the
     rank they should amongst playhouses. I mean the admission of
     _sweeps_ into the theatre in the very dress in which they climb
     chimneys. This not only incommodes ladies and gentlemen by the
     obnoxious odour arising from their attire, but these sweeps take
     up twice the room of other people because the ladies, in
     particular, object to their clothes being soiled by such
     unpleasant neighbours. I have with my wife been much in the
     habit of visiting the Surrey Theatre, and on three occasions we
     have been annoyed by these sweeps. People will not go, sir,
     where sweeps are; and you will find, sooner or later, these
     gentlemen will have the whole theatre to themselves unless an
     alteration be made. I own, at some theatres, the managers are
     too particular in dress; those days are passed, and the public
     have a right to go to theatrical entertainments in their morning
     costumes; but this ought not to include the sweeps. It is not a
     week ago since a lady in a nice white gown sat down on the very
     spot which a nasty sweep had just quitted, and, when she got up,
     the sight was most horrible, for she was a very heavy lady and
     had laughed a good deal during the performance; but it was no
     laughing matter to her when she got home. I hope I have said
     quite enough, and am your


     "R.W. Elliston, Esq."

No doubt some reform followed upon this urgent complaint.

Regulations as to dress are peculiar to our Italian opera-houses, are
unknown, as Mr. Sutherland Edwards writes in his "History of the
Opera," "even in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where, as the theatres are
directed by the Imperial Government, one might expect to find a more
despotic code of laws in force than in a country like England. When an
Englishman goes to a morning or evening concert, he does not present
himself in the attire of a scavenger, and there is no reason for
supposing that he would appear in any unbecoming garb if liberty of
dress were permitted to him at the opera.... If the check-takers are
empowered to inspect and decide as to the propriety of the cut and
colour of clothes, why should they not also be allowed to examine the
texture? On the same principle, too, the cleanliness of opera-goers
ought to be inquired into. No one whose hair is not properly brushed
should be permitted to enter the stalls, and visitors to the pit
should be compelled to show their nails."

There have been, from time to time, protests, unavailing however,
against the tyranny of the opera-managers. In his "Seven Years of the
King's Theatre" (1828), Mr. Ebers publishes the remonstrance of a
gentleman refused admission to the opera on the score of his imperfect
costume, much to his amazement; "for," he writes, "I was dressed in a
superfine blue coat with gold buttons, white waistcoat, fashionable
tight drab pantaloons, white silk stockings and dress shoes, _all worn
but once, a few days before, at a dress concert, at the Crown and
Anchor Tavern_." He proceeds to express his indignation at the idea of
the manager presuming to enact sumptuary laws without the intervention
of the Legislature, and adds threats of legal proceedings and an
appeal to a British jury. "I have mixed," he continues, "too much in
genteel society not to know that black breeches, or pantaloons, with
black silk stockings, is a very prevailing full dress, and why is it
so? Because it is convenient and economical, _for you can wear a pair
of white silk stockings but once without washing, and a fair of black
is frequently worn for weeks without ablution._ P.S.--I have no
objection to submit an inspection of my dress of the evening in
question to you or any competent person you may appoint." Of this
offer it would seem that Mr. Ebers did not avail himself.



Lords of Misrule and Abbots of Unreason had long presided over the
Yuletide festivities of Old England; in addition to these
functionaries King Henry VIII. nominated a Master and Yeoman of the
Revels to act as the subordinates of his Lord Chamberlain, and
expressly to provide and supervise the general entertainments and
pastimes of the court. These had already been ordered and established
after a manner that seemed extravagant by contrast with the economical
tastes of the preceding sovereign, who yet had not shown indifference
to the attractions of poetry, music, and the stage. But Henry VIII.,
according to the testimony of Hall, was a proficient, not less in arms
than in arts; he exercised himself daily in shooting, singing,
dancing, wrestling, "casting of the bar, playing at the recorders,
flute, virginals, and in setting of songs, making of ballettes; and
did set two goodly masses, every in them five parts, which were sung
oftentimes in his chapel, and afterwards in divers other places."
Early in his reign he appointed Richard Gibson, one of his father's
company of players, to be "yeoman tailor to the king," and
subsequently "serjeant-at-arms and of the tents and revels;" and in
1546 he granted a patent to Sir Thomas Cawarden, conferring upon him
the office of "Magistri Jocorum, Revellorum et Mascorum, omnium et
singulorum nostrorum, vulgariter nuncupatorum Revells et Masks," with
a salary of £10 sterling--a very modest stipend; but then Sir Thomas
enjoyed other emoluments from his situation as one of the gentlemen
of the Privy Chamber. The Yeoman of the Revels, who assisted the
Master and probably discharged the chief duties of his office,
received an annual allowance of £9 2s. 6d., and eight players of
interludes were awarded incomes, of £3 6s. 8d. To these remote
appointments of "yeoman tailor," and "Master of the Revels," is due
that office of "Licenser of Plays," which, strange to say, is extant
and even flourishing in the present year of grace.

As Chalmers has pointed out, however, in his "Apology for the
Believers in the Shakespearean Papers," the King's Chamberlain, or, as
he was styled in all formal proceedings of the time, Camerarius
Hospitii, had the government and superintendence of the king's hunting
and revels, of the comedians, musicians, and other royal servants; and
was, by virtue of the original constitution of his office, the real
Master of the Revels, "the great director of the sports of the court
by night as well as of the sports of the field by day." Still the
odium of his office, especially in its relation to plays and players,
could not but attach to his subordinates and deputies the Masters of
the Revels; "tasteless and officious tyrants," as Gifford describes
them in a note to Ben Jonson's "Alchemist," "who acted with little
discrimination, and were always more ready to prove their authority
than their judgment, the most hateful of them all being Sir Henry
Herbert," appointed by Charles I. to an office which naturally expired
when the Puritans suppressed the stage and did their utmost to
exterminate the players. At the Restoration, however, Herbert resumed
his duties; but he found, as Chalmers relates, "that the recent times
had given men new habits of reasoning, notions of privileges, and
propensities to resistance. He applied to the courts of justice for
redress; but the verdicts of judges were contradictory; he appealed to
the ruler of the state, but without receiving redress or exciting
sympathy: like other disputed jurisdictions, the authority of the
Master of the Revels continued to be oppressive till the Revolution
taught new lessons to all parties."

It is to be observed, however, that the early severities and arbitrary
caprices to which the players were subjected, were not attributable
solely to the action of the Masters of the Revels. The Privy Council
was constant in its interference with the affairs of the theatre. A
suspicion was for a long time rife that the dramatic representations
of the sixteenth century touched upon matters of religion or points of
doctrine, and oftentimes contained matters "tending to sedition and to
the contempt of sundry good orders and laws." Proclamations were from
time to time issued inhibiting the players and forbidding the
representation of plays and interludes. In 1551 even the actors
attached to the households of noblemen were not allowed to perform
without special leave from the Privy Council; and the authorities of
Gray's Inn, once famous for its dramatic representations, expressly
ordered that there should be "no comedies called interludes in this
house out of term time, but when the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord
is solemnly observed." Upon the accession of Queen Mary, in 1553,
dramatic representations, whether or not touching upon points of
religious doctrine, appear to have been forbidden for a period of two
years. In 1556 the Star Chamber issued orders, addressed to the
justices of the peace in every county in the kingdom, with
instructions that they should be rigorously enforced, forbidding the
representation of dramatic productions of all kinds. Still, in Mary's
reign, certain miracle plays, designed to inculcate and enforce the
tenets of the Roman Catholic religion, were now and then encouraged by
the public authorities; and in 1557 the Queen sanctioned various
sports and pageants of a dramatic kind, apparently for the
entertainment of King Philip, then arrived from Flanders, and of the
Russian ambassador, who had reached England a short time before.

The players had for a long while few temptations to resist authority,
whether rightfully or wrongfully exercised. Sufferance was the badge
of their tribe. They felt constrained to submit without question or
repining, when loud-toned commands were addressed to them, dreading
lest worse things should come about. It was a sort of satisfaction to
them, at last, to find themselves governed by so distinguished a
personage as the Lord Chamberlain, or even by his inferior officer the
Master of the Revels. It was true that he might, as he often did, deal
with them absurdly and severely; but even in this abuse of his power
there was valuable recognition of their profession--it became invested
with a measure of lawfulness, otherwise often denied it by common
opinion. How it chanced that a member of the royal household ruled not
only the dramatic representations of the court, but controlled
arbitrarily enough, plays and players generally, no one appeared to
know, or thought it worth while to inquire. As Colley Cibber writes:
"Though in all the letters patent for acting plays, &c., since King
Charles I.'s time, there has been no mention of the Lord Chamberlain,
or of any subordination to his command or authority, yet it was still
taken for granted that no letters patent, by the bare omission of such
a great officer's name, could have superseded or taken out of his
hands that power which time out of mind he always had exercised over
the theatre. But as the truth of the question seemed to be wrapt in a
great deal of obscurity in the old laws, made in former reigns,
relating to players, &c., it may be no wonder that the best companies
of actors should be desirous of taking shelter under the visible power
of a Lord Chamberlain, who, they knew, had at his pleasure favoured
and protected, or borne hard upon them; but be all this as it may, a
Lord Chamberlain, from whencesoever his power might be derived, had,
till of later years, had always an implicit obedience paid to it."

Among the duties undertaken by the Lord Chamberlain was the licensing
or refusing new plays, with the suppression of such portions of them
_as_ he might deem objectionable; which province was assigned to his
inferior, the Master of the Revels. This, be it understood, was long
before the passing of the Licensing Act of 1737, which indeed,
although it gave legal sanction to the power of the Lord Chamberlain,
did not really invest him with much more power than he had often
before exercised. Even in Charles II.'s time, the representation of
"The Maid's Tragedy," of Beaumont and Fletcher, had been forbidden by
an order from the Lord Chamberlain. It was conjectured that "the
killing of the king in that play, while the tragical death of King
Charles I. was then so fresh in people's memory, was an object too
horribly impious for a public entertainment;" and, accordingly, the
courtly poet Waller occupied himself in altering the catastrophe of
the story, so as to save the life of the king. Another opinion
prevailed, to the effect that the murder accomplished by the heroine
Evadne offered "a dangerous example to other Evadnes then shining at
court in the same rank of royal distinction." In the same reign also,
Nat Lee's tragedy of "Lucius Junius Brutus," "was silenced after three
performances;" it being objected that the plan and sentiments of it
had too boldly vindicated, and might inflame, Republican principles. A
prologue, by Dryden, to "The Prophetess," was prohibited, on account
of certain "familiar metaphorical sneers at the Revolution" it was
supposed to contain, at a time when King William was prosecuting the
war in Ireland. Bank's tragedy of "Mary, Queen of Scotland," was
withheld from the stage for twenty years, owing to "the profound
penetration of the Master of the Revels, who saw political spectres in
it that never appeared in the presentation." From Cibber's version of
"Richard III.," the first act was wholly expunged, lest "the
distresses of King Henry VI., who is killed by Richard in the first
act, should put weak people too much in mind of King James, then
living in France." In vain did Cibber petition the Master of the
Revels "for the small indulgence of a speech or two, that the other
four acts might limp on with a little less absurdity. No! He had not
leisure to consider what might be separately inoffensive!" So, too,
some eight years before the passing of the Licensing Act, Gay's ballad
opera of "Polly," designed as a sequel to "The Beggar's Opera,"
incurred the displeasure of the Chamberlain, and was denied the
honours of representation.

Nor was it only on political grounds that the Lord Chamberlain or the
Master of the Revels exercised his power. The "View of the Stage,"
published by the nonjuring clergyman, Jeremy Collier, in 1697, first
drew public attention to the immorality and profanity of the dramatic
writers of that period. The diatribes and rebukes of Collier, if here
and there a trifle overstrained, were certainly, for the most part,
provoked by the nature of the case, and were justified by the result.
Even Cibber, who had been cited as one of the offenders, admits that
"his calling our dramatic writers to this strict account had a very
wholesome effect upon those who wrote after this time. They were now a
great deal more upon their guard ... and, by degrees, the fair sex
came again to fill the boxes on the first day of a new comedy, without
fear of censure." For some time, it seems, the ladies had been afraid
of venturing "bare-faced" to a new comedy, till they had been assured
that they could do it without risk of affront; "or if," as Cibber
says, "their curiosity was too strong for their patience, they took
care, at least, to save appearances, and rarely came upon the first
days of acting but in masks, then daily worn and admitted in the pit,
the side-boxes, and gallery." This reform of the drama, it is to be
observed, was really effected, not by the agency of the Chamberlain or
any other court official, but by force of the just criticism,
strenuously delivered, of a private individual. But now, following the
example of Collier, the Master of the Revels, in his turn, insisted
upon amendment in this matter, and oftentimes forbade the performance
of whole scenes that he judged to be vicious or immoral. He had
constituted himself a _Censor Morum_; a character in which the modern
Licenser of Plays still commends himself to our notice.

Moreover, the Chamberlain had arrogated to himself the right of
interfering in dramatic affairs upon all occasions that he judged
fitting. Upon his authority the theatres were closed at any moment,
even for a period of six weeks, in the case of the death of the
sovereign. If any disputes occurred between managers and actors, even
in relation to so small a matter as the privileges of the latter, the
Chamberlain interfered to arrange the difficulty according to his own
notion of justice. No actor could quit the company of one patent
theatre, to join the forces of the other, without the permission of
the Chamberlain, in addition to the formal discharge of his manager.
Powell, the actor, even suffered imprisonment on this account,
although it was thought as well, after a day or two, to abandon the
proceedings that had been taken against him. "Upon this occasion,"
says Cibber, with a mysterious air, and in very involved terms,
"behind the scenes at Drury Lane, a person of great quality, in my
hearing, inquiring of Powell into the nature of his offence ... told
him, that if he had patience, or spirit enough to have stayed in his
confinement till he had given him notice of it, he would have found
him a handsomer way of coming out of it!" Of the same actor, Powell,
it is recorded that he once, at Will's Coffee House, "in a dispute
about playhouse affairs, struck a gentleman whose family had been some
time masters of it." A complaint of the actor's violence was lodged at
the Chamberlain's office, and Powell having a part in the play
announced for performance upon the following day, an order was sent to
silence the whole company, and to close the theatre, although it was
admitted that the managers had been without cognisance of their
actor's misconduct! "However," Cibber narrates, "this order was
obeyed, and remained in force for two or three days, till the same
authority was pleased, or advised, to revoke it. From the measures
this injured gentleman took for his redress, it may be judged how far
it was taken for granted that a Lord Chamberlain had an absolute power
over the theatre." An attempt, however, upon the authority of the
Chamberlain to imprison Dogget, the actor, for breach of his
engagement with the patentees of Drury Lane Theatre, met with signal
discomfiture. Dogget forthwith applied to the Lord Chief Justice Holt
for his discharge under the Habeas Corpus Act, and readily obtained
it, with, it may be gathered, liberal compensation for the violence to
which he had been subjected.

The proceedings of the Lord Chamberlain had, indeed, become most
oppressive. Early in 1720, the Duke of Newcastle, then Lord
Chamberlain, took upon himself to close Drury Lane Theatre. Steele,
then one of the patentees, addressed the public upon the subject. He
had lived in friendship with the duke; he owed his seat in Parliament
to the duke's influence. He commenced with saying: "The injury which I
have received, great as it is, has nothing in it so painful as that it
comes from whence it does. When I complained of it in a private letter
to the Chamberlain, he was pleased to send his secretary to me with a
message to forbid me writing, speaking, corresponding, or applying to
him in any manner whatsoever. Since he has been pleased to send an
English gentleman a banishment from his person and counsels in a style
thus royal, I doubt not but that the reader will justify me in the
method I take to explain this matter to the town." Steele could obtain
no redress, however. He was virtually dispossessed of his rights as
patentee. He estimated his loss at nine thousand eight hundred pounds,
and concluded his statement of the case with the words: "But it is
apparent the King is grossly and shamelessly injured ... I never did
one act to provoke this attempt, nor does the Chamberlain pretend to
assign any direct reason of forfeiture, but openly and wittingly
declares that he will ruin Steele.... The Lord Chamberlain and many
others may, perhaps, have done more for the House of Hanover than I
have, but I am the only man in his majesty's dominions, who did all he
could." For some months Steele was replaced by other patentees, of
whom Cibber was one, more submissive to "the lawful monarch of the
stage," as Dennis designated the Chamberlain; but in 1721, upon the
intervention of Walpole, Steele was restored to his privileges. It is
not clear, however, that he took any legal measures to obtain
compensation for the wrong done him. Cibber is silent upon the
subject; because, it has been suggested, the Chamberlain had been
instrumental in obtaining him the appointment of poet laureate, which
could hardly have devolved upon him in right of his poetic

Nevertheless, Cibber had been active in organising a form of
opposition to the authority of the Chamberlain and the Master of the
Revels, which, although it seemed of a trifling kind, had yet its
importance. For it turned upon the question of fees. The holders of
the patents considered themselves sole judges of the plays proper to
be acted in their theatres. The Master of the Revels claimed his fee
of forty shillings for each play produced. The managers, it seems,
were at liberty to represent new plays without consulting him, and to
spare him the trouble of reading the same--provided always they paid
him his fees. But these they now thought it expedient to withhold from
him. Cibber was deputed to attend the Master of the Revels, and to
inquire into the justice of his demand, with full powers to settle the
dispute amicably. Charles Killigrew at this time filled the office,
having succeeded his father Thomas, who had obtained the appointment
of Master of the Revels upon the death of Sir Henry Herbert in 1673.
Killigrew could produce no warrant for his demand. Cibber concluded
with telling him that "as his pretensions were not backed with any
visible instrument of right, and as his strongest plea was custom, the
managers could not so far extend their complaisance as to continue the
payment of fees upon so slender a claim to them." From that time
neither their plays nor his fees gave either party any further
trouble. In 1725 Killigrew was succeeded as Master of the Revels by
Charles Henry Lea, who for some years continued to exercise "such
authority as was not opposed, and received such fees as he could find
the managers willing to pay."

The first step towards legislation in regard to the theatres and the
licensing of plays was made in 1734, when Sir John Barnard moved the
House of Commons "for leave to bring in a bill for restraining the
number of houses for playing of interludes and for the better
regulating common players of interludes." It was represented that
great mischief had been done in the city of London by the playhouses:
youth had been corrupted, vice encouraged, trade and industry
prejudiced. Already the number of theatres in London was double that
of Paris. In addition to the opera-house, the French playhouse in the
Haymarket, and the theatres in Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Lincoln's
Inn Fields, and Goodman's Fields, there was now a project to erect a
new playhouse in St. Martin's-le-Grand. It was no less surprising than
shameful to see so great a change in the temper and inclination of the
British people; "we now exceeded in levity even the French themselves,
from whom we learned these and many other ridiculous customs, as much
unsuitable to the mien and manners of an Englishman or a Scot, as they
were agreeable to the air and levity of a Monsieur." Moreover, it was
remarked that, to the amazement and indignation of all Europe, Italian
singers received here "set salaries equal to those of the Lords of the
Treasury and Judges of England!" The bill was duly brought in, but was
afterwards dropped, "on account of a clause offered to be inserted ...
for enlarging the power of the Lord Chamberlain with respect to the
licensing of plays." It is curious to find that Tony Aston, a popular
comedian of the time, who had been bred an attorney, was, upon his own
petition, permitted to deliver a speech in the House of Commons
against Sir John Barnard's bill.

But two years later the measure was substantially passed into law. The
theatres had certainly given in the meantime serious provocation to
the authorities. The power of the Chamberlain and the Master of the
Revels had been derided. Playhouses were opened and plays produced
without any kind of license. At the Haymarket, under the management of
Fielding, who styled his actors "The Great Mogul's Comedians," the
bills announcing that they had "dropped from the clouds" (in mockery,
probably, of "His Majesty's Servants" at Drury Lane, or of another
troop describing themselves as "The Comedians of His Majesty's
Revels"), the plays produced had been in the nature of political
lampoons. Walpole and his arts of government were openly satirised,
Fielding having no particular desire to spare the prime minister,
whose patronage he had vainly solicited. In the play entitled
"Pasquin, a Dramatic Satire on the Times; being the rehearsal of two
plays, viz., a Comedy, called The Election, and a Tragedy, called the
Life and Death of Common Sense," the satire was chiefly aimed at the
electoral corruptions of the age, the abuses prevailing in the learned
professions, and the servility of place-men who derided public virtue,
and denied the existence of political honesty. "Pasquin," it may be
noted, was received with extraordinary favour, enjoyed a run of fifty
nights, and proved a source of both fame and profit to its author. But
the play of "The Historical Register of 1736," produced in the spring
of 1737, contained allusions of a more pointed and personal kind, and
gravely offended the government. Indeed, the result could hardly have
been otherwise. Walpole himself was brought upon the stage, and under
the name of Quidam violently caricatured. He was exhibited silencing
noisy patriots with bribes, and then joining with them in a dance--the
proceedings being explained by Medley, another of the characters,
supposed to be an author: "Sir, every one of these patriots has a hole
in his pocket, as Mr. Quidam the fiddler there knows; so that he
intends to make them dance till all the money has fallen through,
which he will pick up again, and so not lose a halfpenny by his
generosity!" The play, indeed, abounded in satire of the boldest kind,
in witty and unsparing invective; as the biographer of Fielding
acknowledges, there was much in the work "well calculated both to
offend and alarm a wary minister of state." Soon both "Pasquin" and
"The Historical Register" were brought under the notice of the
Cabinet. Walpole felt "that it would be inexpedient to allow the stage
to become the vehicle of anti-ministerial abuse." The Licensing Act
was resolved upon.

The new measure was not avowedly aimed at Fielding, however. It was
preceded by incidents of rather a suspicious kind. Gifford, the
manager of Goodman's Fields Theatre, professing to have received from
some anonymous writer a play of singular scurrility, carried the work
to the prime minister. The obsequious manager was rewarded with one
thousand pounds for his patriotic conduct, and the libellous nature of
the play he had surrendered was made the excuse for the legislation
that ensued. It was freely observed at the time, however, that Gifford
had profited more by suppressing the play than he could possibly have
gained by representing it, and that there was something more than
natural in the appositeness of his receipt of it. If honest, it was
suggested that he had been trapped by a government spy, who had sent
him the play, solely that he might deal with it as he did; but it was
rather assumed that he had disingenuously curried favour with the
authorities, and sold himself for treasury gold. The play in question
was never acted or printed; nor was the name of the author, or of the
person from whom the manager professed to have received it, ever
disclosed. Horace Walpole, indeed, boldly ascribed it to Fielding, and
asserted that he had discovered among his father's papers an imperfect
copy of the play. But the statement has not obtained much acceptance.

The ministry hurried on their Licensing Bill. It was entitled "An Act
to explain and amend so much of an Act made in the twelfth year of
Queen Anne, entitled 'An Act for reducing the laws relating to rogues,
vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and vagrants, into one Act of Parliament;
and for a more effectual punishing such rogues, vagabonds, sturdy
beggars, and vagrants, and sending them whither they ought to be
sent,' as relates to common players of interludes." But its chief
object--undisclosed by its title, was the enactment that, for the
future, every dramatic piece, including prologues and epilogues,
should, previous to performance, receive the license of the Lord
Chamberlain, and that, without his permission, no London theatre,
unprotected by a patent, should open its doors. Read a first time on
the 24th of May, 1737, the bill was passed through both Houses with
such despatch that it received the royal assent on the 8th of June
following. It was opposed in the House of Commons by Mr. Pulteney, and
in the House of Lords by the Earl of Chesterfield, whose impressive
speech on the occasion is one of the few specimens that survive of the
parliamentary eloquence of the period. With the passing of the
Licensing Act, Fielding's career as manager and dramatist was brought
to a close. He was constrained to devote himself to the study of the
law, and subsequently to the production of novels. And with the
passing of the Licensing Act terminated the existence of the Master
of the Revels; the Act, indeed, made no mention of him, ignored him
altogether. He survived, however, under another name--still as the
Chamberlain's subordinate and deputy. Thence forward he was known as
the Licenser of Playhouses and Examiner of Plays.



The Act of 1737 for licensing plays, playhouses, and players, and
legalising the power the Lord Chamberlain had long been accustomed to
exercise, although readily passed by both Houses of Parliament, gave
great offence to the public. The Abbé Le Blanc, who was visiting
England at this period, describes the new law as provoking a
"universal murmur in the nation." It was openly complained of in the
newspapers; at the coffee-houses it was denounced as unjust and
"contrary to the liberties of the people of England." Fear prevailed
that the freedom of the press would next be invaded. In the House of
Lords Chesterfield had stigmatised the measure both as an encroachment
on liberty and an attack on property. "Wit, my lords," he said, "is a
sort of property. It is the property of those that have it, and too
often the only property they have to depend on. It is, indeed; but a
precarious dependence. Thank God, we, my lords, have a dependence of
another kind. We have a much less precarious support, and, therefore,
cannot feel the inconveniences of the bill now before us; but it is
our duty to encourage and protect wit, whosoever's property it may be....
I must own I cannot easily agree to the laying of a tax upon wit;
but by this bill it is to be heavily taxed--it is to be excised; for
if this bill passes, it cannot be retailed in a proper way without a
permit; and the Lord Chamberlain is to have the honour of being chief
gauger, supervisor, commissioner, judge and jury." At this time,
however, it is to be noted that parliamentary reporting was forbidden
by both Houses. The general public, therefore, knew little of Lord
Chesterfield's eloquent defence of the liberty of the stage.

The Act was passed in June, when the patent theatres, according to
custom, were closed for the summer. Some two months after their
reopening in the autumn all dramatic representations were suspended
for six weeks, in consequence of the death of Queen Caroline. In
January was presented at Covent Garden "A Nest of Plays," as the
author, one Hildebrand Jacob, described his production: a combination
of three short plays, each consisting of one act only, entitled
respectively, "The Prodigal Reformed," "Happy Constancy," and "The
Trial of Conjugal Love." The performance met with a very unfavourable
reception. The author attributed the ill success of his work to its
being the first play licensed by the authority of the Lord Chamberlain
under the new bill, many spectators having predetermined to silence,
under any circumstances, "the first fruits of that Act of Parliament."
And this seems, indeed, to have been the case. The Abbé Le Blanc, who
was present on the occasion, writes: "The best play in the world would
not have succeeded that night. There was a disposition to damn
whatever might appear. The farce in question was damned, indeed,
without the least compassion. Nor was that all, for the actors were
driven off the stage, and happy was it for the author that he did not
fall into the hands of this furious assembly." And the Abbé proceeds
to explain that the originators of this disturbance were not
"schoolboys, apprentices, clerks, or mechanics," but lawyers, "a body
of gentlemen perhaps less honoured, but certainly more feared here
than they are in France," who, "from living in colleges (Inns of
Court), and from conversing always with one another, mutually preserve
a spirit of independency through the body, and with great ease form
cabals.... At Paris the cabals of the pit are only among young
fellows, whose years may excuse their folly, or persons of the meanest
education and stamp; here they are the fruit of deliberation in a very
grave body of people, who are not less formidable to the minister in
place than to the theatrical writers." But the Abbé relates that on a
subsequent occasion, when another new play having been announced, he
had looked for further disturbance, the judicious dramatist of the
night succeeded in calming the pit by administering in his prologue a
double dose of incense to their vanity. "Half-an-hour before the play
was to begin the spectators gave notice of their dispositions by
frightful hisses and outcries, equal, perhaps, to what were ever heard
at a Roman amphitheatre." The author, however, having in part tamed
this wild audience by his flattery, secured ultimately its absolute
favour by humouring its prejudices after the grossest fashion. He
brought upon the stage a figure "with black eyebrows, a ribbon of an
ell long under his chin, a bag-peruke immoderately powdered, and his
nose all bedaubed with snuff. What Englishman could not know a
Frenchman by this ridiculous figure?" The Frenchman was presently
shown to be, for all the lace down every seam of his coat, nothing but
a cook, and then followed severe satire and criticism upon the manners
and customs of France. "The excellence and virtues of English beef
were extolled, and the author maintained that it was owing to the
qualities of its juice that the English were so courageous and had
such a solidity of understanding, which raised them above all the
nations in Europe; he preferred the noble old English pudding beyond
all the finest ragouts that ever were invented by the greatest
geniuses that France ever produced." These "ingenious strokes" were
loudly applauded by the audience, it seems, who, in their delight at
the abuse lavished upon the French, forgot that they came to condemn
the play and to uphold the ancient liberties of the stage. From that
time forward, the Abbé states, "the law was executed without the least
trouble; all the plays since have been quietly heard, and either
succeeded or not according to their merits."

When Garrick visited Paris he declined to be introduced to the Abbé Le
Blanc, "on account of the irreverence with which he had treated
Shakespeare." There can, indeed, be no doubt that the Abbé, although
he wrote amusing letters, was a very prejudiced person, and his
evidence and opinions touching the English stage must be received with
caution. So far as can be ascertained, especially by study of the
"History of the Stage" (compiled by that industrious clergyman, Mr.
Genest, from the playbills in the British Museum), but few new plays
were produced in the course of the season immediately following the
passing of the Licensing Act; certainly no new play can be found
answering the description furnished by the Abbé with due regard to the
period he has fixed for its production. Possibly he referred to the
"Beaux' Stratagem," in which appear a French officer and an
Irish-French priest, and which was certainly represented some few
nights after the condemnation of Mr. Jacob's "Nest of Plays."
Farquhar's comedy was then thirty years old, however. Nor has the Abbé
done full justice to the public opposition offered to the Licensing
Act. At the Haymarket Theatre a serious riot occurred in October,
1738, fifteen months after the passing of the measure. Closed against
the English actors the theatre was opened by a French company, armed
with a license from the Lord Chamberlain. A comedy, called "L'Embarras
de Richesses," was announced for representation "by authority." The
house was crowded immediately after the opening of the doors. But the
audience soon gave evidence of their sentiments by singing in chorus
"The Roast Beef of Old England." Then followed loud huzzas and general
tumult. Deveil, one of the Justices of the Peace for Westminster, who
was present, declared the proceedings to be riotous, and announced his
intention to maintain the King's authority. He stated, further, that
it was the King's command that the play should be acted, and that all
offenders would be immediately secured by the guards in waiting. In
opposition to the magistrate it was maintained "that the audience had
a legal right to show their dislike to any play or actor; that the
judicature of the pit had been acquiesced in, time immemorial; and as
the present set of actors were to take their fate from the public,
they were free to receive them as they pleased." When the curtain drew
up the actors were discovered standing between two files of
grenadiers, with their bayonets fixed and resting on their firelocks.
This seeming endeavour to secure the success of French acting by the
aid of British bayonets still more infuriated the audience. Even
Justice Deveil thought it prudent to order the withdrawal of the
military. The actors attempted to speak, but their voices were
overborne by hisses, groans, and "not only catcalls, but all the
various portable instruments that could make a disagreeable noise." A
dance was next essayed; but even this had been provided against:
showers of peas descended upon the stage, and "made capering very
unsafe." The French and Spanish Ambassadors, with their ladies, who
had occupied the stage-box, now withdrew, only to be insulted outside
the theatre by the mob, who had cut the traces of their carriages. The
curtain at last fell, and the attempt to present French plays at the
Haymarket was abandoned, "the public being justly indignant that
whilst an arbitrary Act suppressed native talent, foreign adventurers
should be patronised and encouraged." It must be said, however, that
the French actors suffered for sins not their own, and that the wrath
of the public did not really reach the Lord Chamberlain, or effect any
change in the Licensing Act.

For twenty years the Haymarket remained without a license of any
endurance. The theatre was occasionally opened, however, for brief
seasons, by special permission of the Chamberlain, or in defiance of
his authority, many ingenious subterfuges being resorted to, so that
the penalties imposed by the Act might be evaded. One of the
advertisements ran--"At Cibber's Academy, in the Haymarket, will be a
concert, after which will be exhibited (gratis) a rehearsal, in form
of a play, called Romeo and Juliet." Macklin, the actor, opened the
theatre in 1744, and under the pretence of instructing "unfledged
performers" in "the science of acting," gave a variety of dramatic
representations. It was expressly announced that no money would be
taken at the doors, "nor any person admitted but by printed tickets,
which will be delivered by Mr. Macklin, at his house in Bow Street,
Covent Garden." At one of these performances Samuel Foote made his
first appearance upon the stage, sustaining the part of Othello.
Presently, Foote ventured to give upon the stage of the Haymarket, a
monologue entertainment, called "Diversions of a Morning." At the
instance of Lacy, however, one of the patentees of Drury Lane Theatre,
whom Foote had satirised, the performance was soon prohibited. But
Foote was not easily discouraged; and, by dint of wit and impudence,
for some time baffled the authorities. He invited his friends to
attend the theatre, at noon, and "drink a dish of chocolate with him."
He promised that he would "endeavour to make the morning as diverting
as possible;" and notified that "Sir Dilbury Diddle would be there,
and Lady Betty Frisk had absolutely promised." Tickets, without which
no person would be admitted, were to be obtained at George's Coffee
House, Temple Bar. Some simple visitors, no doubt, expected that
chocolate would be really served to them. But the majority were
content with an announcement from the stage that, while chocolate was
preparing, Mr. Foote would, with the permission of his friends,
proceed with his instruction of certain pupils he was educating in the
art of acting. Under this pretence a dramatic representation was
really given, and repeated on some forty occasions. Then he grew
bolder, and opened the theatre in the evening, at the request, as he
stated, "of several persons who are desirous of spending an hour with
Mr. Foote, but find the time inconvenient." Instead of chocolate in
the morning, Mr. Foot's friends were therefore invited to drink "a
dish of tea" with him at half-past six in the evening. By-and-by, his
entertainment was slightly varied, and described as an Auction of
Pictures. Eventually, Foote obtained from the Duke of Devonshire, the
Lord Chamberlain, a permanent license for the theatre, and the
Haymarket took rank as a regular and legal place of entertainment, to
be open, however, only during the summer months. Upon Foote's decease,
the theatre devolved upon George Colman, who obtained a continuance of
the license.

The theatre in Goodman's Fields underwent experiences very similar to
those of the Haymarket. Under the provisions of the Licensing Act its
performances became liable to the charge of illegality. It was without
a patent or a license. It was kept open professedly for concerts of
vocal and instrumental music, divided into two parts. Between these
parts dramatic performances were presented gratis. The obscurity of
the theatre, combined with its remote position, probably protected it
for some time from interference and suppression. But on the 19th
October, 1741, at this unlicensed theatre, a gentleman, who, as the
playbill of the night untruly stated, had never before appeared on any
stage, undertook the part of Richard III. in Cibber's version of
Shakespeare's tragedy. The gentleman's name was David Garrick. Had he
failed the theatre might have lived on. But his success was fatal to
it. The public went in crowds from all parts of the town to see the
new actor. "From the polite ends of Westminster the most elegant
company flocked to Goodman's Fields, insomuch that from Temple Bar the
whole way was covered with a string of coaches." The patentees of
Drury Lane and Covent Garden interfered, "alarmed at the deficiency
of their own receipts," and invoked the aid of the Lord Chamberlain.
The Goodman's Fields Theatre was closed, and Garrick was spirited away
to Drury Lane, with a salary of 600 guineas a-year, a larger sum than
had ever before been awarded to any performer.

It will be seen that the Chamberlain had deemed it his mission to
limit, as much as possible, the number of places of theatrical
entertainment in London. Playgoers were bidden to be content with
Drury Lane and Covent Garden; it was not conceivable to the noblemen
and commoners occupying the Houses of Parliament, or to the
place-holders in the Chamberlain's office, or in the royal household,
that other theatres could possibly be required.

Still attempts were occasionally made to establish additional places
of entertainment. In 1785, John Palmer, the actor famous as the
original Joseph Surface, laid the first stone of a new theatre, to be
called the East London, or Royalty, in the neighbourhood of the old
Goodman's Fields Theatre, which had been many years abandoned of the
actors and converted into a goods warehouse. The building was
completed in 1787. The opening representation was announced; when the
proprietors of the patent theatres gave warning that any infringement
of their privileges would be followed by the prosecution of Mr. Palmer
and his company. The performances took place, nevertheless, but they
were stated to be for the benefit of the London Hospital, and not,
therefore, for "hire, gain, or reward;" so the actors avoided risk of
commitment as rogues and vagabonds. But necessarily the enterprise
ended in disaster. Palmer, his friends alleged, lost his whole
fortune; it was shrewdly suspected, however, that he had, in truth, no
fortune to lose. In any case he speedily retired from the new theatre.
It was open for brief seasons with such exhibitions of music, dancing,
and pantomime, as were held to be unaffected by the Act, and
permissible under the license of the local magistrates. From time to
time, however, the relentless patentees took proceedings against the
actors. Delpini, the clown, was even committed to prison for
exclaiming "Roast Beef!" in a Christmas pantomime. By uttering words
without the accompaniment of music he had, it appeared, constituted
himself an actor of a stage play.

Some five-and-twenty years later, Elliston was now memorialising the
king, now petitioning the House of Commons and the Privy Council, in
reference to the opening of an additional theatre. He had been in
treaty for the Pantheon, in Oxford Street, and urged that "the
intellectual community would be benefited by an extension of license
for the regular drama." As lessee of the Royal Circus or Surrey
Theatre, he besought liberty to exhibit and perform "all such
entertainments of music and action as were commonly called pantomimes
and ballets, together with operatic or musical pieces, accompanied
with dialogue in the ordinary mode of dramatic representations,"
subject, at all times, to the control and restraint of the Lord
Chamberlain, "in conformity to the laws by which theatres possessing
those extensive privileges were regulated." But all was in vain. The
king would not "notice any representation connected with the
establishment of another theatre." The other petitions were without

Gradually, however, it became necessary for the authorities to
recognise the fact that the public really did require more amusements
of a theatrical kind than the privileged theatres could furnish. But
the regular drama, it was held, must still be protected: performed
only on the patent boards. So now "burletta licenses" were issued,
under cover of which melodramas were presented, with entertainments of
music and dancing, spectacle and pantomime. In 1809, the Lyceum or
English Opera House, which for some years before had been licensed for
music and dancing, was licensed for "musical dramatic entertainments
and ballets of action." The Adelphi, then called the Sans Pareil
Theatre, received a "burletta license" about the same time. In 1813 the
Olympic was licensed for similar performances and for horsemanship;
but it was for a while closed again by the Chamberlain's order, upon
Elliston's attempt to call the theatre Little Drury Lane, and to
represent upon its stage something more like the "regular drama" than
had been previously essayed at a minor house. "Burletta licenses" were
also granted for the St. James's in 1835, and for the Strand in 1836.

And, in despite of the authorities, theatres had been established on
the Surrey side of the Thames; but, in truth, for the accommodation of
the dwellers on the Middlesex shore. Under the Licensing Act, while
the Chamberlain was constituted licenser of all new plays throughout
Great Britain, his power to grant licenses for theatrical
entertainments was confined within the city and liberties of
Westminster, and wherever the sovereign might reside. The Surrey, the
Coburg (afterwards the Victoria), Astley's, &c., were, therefore, out
of his jurisdiction. There seemed, indeed, to be no law in existence
under which they could be licensed. They affected to be open under a
magistrate's license for "music, dancing, and public entertainments."
But this, in truth, afforded them no protection when it was thought
worth while to prosecute the managers for presenting dramatic
exhibitions. For although an Act, passed in the 28th year of George
III., enabled justices of the peace, under certain restrictions, to
grant licenses for dramatic entertainments, their powers did not
extend to within twenty miles of London. Lambeth was thus neutral
ground, over which neither the Lord Chamberlain nor the country
justices had any real authority, with this difficulty about the
case--performances that could not be licensed could not be legalised.

The law continued in this unsatisfactory state till the passing, in
1843, of the Act for Regulating Theatres. This deprived the patent
theatres of their monopoly of the "regular drama," in that it extended
the Lord Chamberlain's power to grant licenses for the performance of
stage plays to all theatres within the parliamentary boundaries of the
City of London and Westminster, and of the Boroughs of Finsbury and
Marylebone, the Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, and Southwark, and also
"within those places where Her Majesty, her heirs and successors,
shall, in their royal persons, occasionally reside;" it being fully
understood that all the theatres then existing in London would receive
forthwith the Chamberlain's license "to give stage plays in the
fullest sense of the word;" to be taken to include, according to the
terms of the Act, "every tragedy, comedy, farce, opera, burletta,
interlude, melodrama, pantomime, or other entertainment of the stage,
or any part thereof."

Thus, at last, more than a century after the passing of the Licensing
Act, certain of its more mischievous restrictions were in effect
repealed. A measure of free trade in theatres was established. The
Lord Chamberlain was still to be "the lawful monarch of the stage,"
but in the future his rule was to be more constitutional, less
absolute than it had been. The public were no longer to be confined to
Drury Lane and Covent Garden in the winter, and the Haymarket in the
summer. Actors were enabled, managers and public consenting, to
personate Hamlet or Macbeth, or other heroes of the poetic stage, at
Lambeth, Clerkenwell, or Shoreditch, anywhere indeed, without risk of
committal to gaol. It was no longer necessary to call a play a
"burletta," or to touch a note upon the piano, now and then, in the
course of a performance, so as to justify its claim to be a musical
entertainment; all subterfuges of this kind ceased.

It was with considerable reluctance, however, that the Chamberlain, in
his character of Licenser of Playhouses, divested himself of the
paternal authority he had so long exercised. He still clung to the
notion that he was a far better judge of the requirements and desires
of playgoers than they could possibly be themselves. He was strongly
of opinion that the number of theatres was "sufficient for the
theatrical wants of the metropolis." He could not allow that the
matter should be regulated by the ordinary laws of supply and demand,
or by any regard for the large annual increase of the population.
Systematically he hindered all enterprise in the direction of new
theatres. It was always doubtful whether his license would be granted,
even after a new building had been completed. He decided that he must
be guided by his own views of "the interests of the public." It is not
clear that he possessed authority in this respect other than that
derived from custom and the traditions of his office. The Act of 1843
contained no special provisions on the subject. But he insisted that
all applicants for the licensing of new theatres should be armed with
petitions in favour of the proposal, signed by many of the inhabitants
in the immediate vicinity of the projected building; he 'required the
Police Commissioners to verify the truth of these petitions, and to
report whether inconvenience was likely to result in the way of
interruption of traffic, or otherwise, from the establishment of a new
theatre. Further, he obtained the opinion of the parish authorities,
the churchwardens, &c., of the district; he was even suspected of
taking counsel with the managers of neighbouring establishments; "in
short, he endeavoured to convince himself generally that the grant of
the license would satisfy a legitimate want"--or what the Chamberlain
in his wisdom, or his unwisdom, held to be such.

Under these conditions it is not surprising that for nearly a quarter
of a century there was no addition made to the list of London
theatres. But time moves on, and even Chamberlains have to move with
it. Of late years there has been no difficulty in regard to the
licensing of new theatres, and the metropolis has been the richer by
many well-conducted houses of dramatic entertainment.



The Lord Chamberlain holds office only so long as the political party
to which he is attached remains in power. He comes in and goes out
with the ministry. Any peculiar fitness for the appointment is not
required of him; it is simply a reward for his political services. Of
course different Chamberlains have entertained different opinions of
the duties to be performed in regard to the theatres; and, in such
wise, much embarrassment has arisen. The Chamberlain's office is
supported by a grant from the Civil List, which is settled upon the
accession of the sovereign. In addition, fees are received for the
licensing of theatres, and for the examination of plays.

The Examiner of Plays has long been recognised as a more permanent
functionary than the Lord Chamberlain, although it would seem the
precise nature of his appointment has never been clearly understood.
"I believe," said Mr. Donne, the late Examiner, in his evidence before
the Parliamentary Committee of 1866, "that it is an appointment that
expires with the sovereign (at least, I infer so from the evidence
which Mr. Colman gave in the year 1833), but I cannot say that from my
own knowledge: I believe it to be an appointment for life."

In truth, the Examiner is simply the employé of the Chamberlain,
appointed by him, and holding the office only so long as the superior
functionary shall deem fitting. There is no instance on record,
however, of the displacement of an Examiner, or of the cancelling by
one Chamberlain of the appointment made by his predecessor. Power of
this kind, however, would seem to be vested in the Chamberlain for the
time being. Colman's evidence, it may be noted, is of no present
worth. He was appointed as a consequence of the old Licensing Act,
repealed in 1843.

The first Licenser of Plays sworn in after the passing of the
Licensing Act of 1737 was William Chetwynd, with a salary of £400
a-year. But this deputy of the Chamberlain was in his turn allowed a
deputy, and one Thomas Odell was appointed assistant examiner, with a
salary of £200 a-year. Strange to say, it was this Odell who had first
opened a theatre in Goodman's Fields, which, upon the complaint of the
civic authorities, who believed the drama to be a source of danger to
the London apprentices of the period, he had been compelled forthwith
to close. He applied to George II, for a royal license, but met with a
peremptory refusal. In 1731 he sold his property to one Giffard, who
rebuilt the theatre, and, dispensing with official permission,
performed stage plays between the intervals of a concert, until
producing Garrick, and obtaining extraordinary success by that
measure, he roused the jealousy of the authorities, and was compelled
to forego his undertaking.

The Licenser's power of prohibition was exercised very shortly after
his appointment, in the case of two tragedies: "Gustavus Vasa," by
Henry Brooke, and "Edward and Eleonora," by James Thomson. Political
allusions of an offensive kind were supposed to lurk somewhere in
these works. "Gustavus Vasa" was especially forbidden "on account of
some strokes of liberty which breathed through several parts of it."
On the Irish stage, however, over which the Chamberlain had no power,
the play was performed as "The Patriot;" while, by the publication of
"Gustavus Vasa," Mr. Brooke obtained £1000 or so from a public curious
as to the improprieties it was alleged to contain, and anxious to
protest against the oppressive conduct of the Licenser. In 1805, with
the permission of the Chamberlain, the play was produced at Covent
Garden, in order that Master Betty, the Young Roscius, might personate
the hero. But the youthful actor failed in the part, and the tragedy,
being found rather dull, was represented but once. At this time Mr.
Brooke had been dead some years. In a preface to his play he had
vouched for its purity, and denounced the conduct of the Licenser, as
opposed to the intention of the Legislature, Dr. Johnson assisting his
cause by the publication of an ironical pamphlet--"A Vindication of
the Licenser from the malicious and scandalous aspersions of Mr.
Brooke." Modern readers may well be excused for knowing little of the
dramatist whose "Gustavus Vasa" had no great deal to recommend it,
perhaps, beyond the fact of its performance having been prohibited.
Yet some few years since, it may be noted, the late Charles Kingsley
made endeavours, more strenuous than successful, to obtain applause
for Brooke's novel, "The Fool of Quality;" but although a new and
handsome edition of this work was published, it was received with some
apathy by the romance-reading public.

The author of "The Seasons" hardly seems a writer likely to give
offence designedly to a Chamberlain. But Thomson was a sort of Poet
Laureate to Frederick, Prince of Wales, then carrying on fierce
opposition to the court of his father, and the play of "Edward and
Eleonora"--a dramatic setting of the old legend of Queen Eleanor
sucking the poison from her husband's arm--certainly contained
passages applicable to the differences existing between the king and
his heir-apparent. In the first scene, one of the characters demands--

    Has not the royal heir a juster claim
    To share his father's inmost heart and counsels,
    Than aliens to his interest, those who make
    A property, a market of his honour?

And King Edward apostrophises his dead sire--

    O my deluded father! little joy
    Hadst thou in life, led from thy real good
    And genuine glory, from thy people's love,
    The noblest aim of kings, by smiling traitors!

In 1775, however, the play was produced at Covent Garden. George III.
was king, and the allusions to the squabbles of his father and
grandfather were not, perhaps, supposed to be any longer of the
remotest concern or significance to anybody.

At this time and long afterwards, the Licenser regarded it as his
chief duty to protect the court against all possibility of attack from
the stage. With the morality of plays he did not meddle much; but he
still clung to the old superstition that the British drama had only a
right to exist as the pastime of royalty; plays and players were still
to be subservient to the pleasure of the sovereign. The British
public, who, after all, really supported the stage, he declined to
consider in the matter; conceding, however, that they were at liberty
to be amused at the theatre, provided they could achieve that end in
strict accordance with the prescription of the court and its
Chamberlain. In George III.'s time King Lear was prohibited, because
it was judged inexpedient that royal insanity should be exhibited upon
the stage. In 1808 a play, called "The Wanderer," adapted from
Kotzebue, was forbidden at Covent Garden, in that it dealt with the
adventures of Prince Charles Edward, the Pretender. Even after the
accession of Queen Victoria, a license was refused to an English
version of Victor Hugo's "Ruy Blas," lest playgoers should perceive in
it allusions to the matrimonial choice her Majesty was then about to

The Licenser's keenness in scenting a political allusion oftentimes,
indeed, entailed upon him much and richly-merited ridicule. The
production, some fifty years ago, of a tragedy called "Alasco"
furnishes a notable instance of the absurdity of his conduct in this
respect. "Alasco" was written by Mr. Shee, a harmless gentleman
enough, if at that time a less fully-developed courtier than he
appeared when, as Sir Martin Archer Shee, he occupied the presidential
chair of the Royal Academy. Possibly some suspicion attached to the
dramatist by reason of his being an Irishman and a Roman Catholic. In
any case, the Licenser found much to object to in "Alasco." The play
was in rehearsal at Covent Garden; but so many alterations and
suppressions were insisted on, that its representation became
impracticable. We may note a few of the lines expunged by the

    With most unworthy patience have I seen
    My country shackled and her sons oppressed;
    And though I've felt their injuries, and avow
    My ardent hope hereafter to avenge them, &c.

    Tyrants, proud lord, are never safe, nor should be;
    The ground is mined beneath them as they tread;
    Haunted by plots, cabals, conspiracies,
    Their lives are long convulsions, and they shake,
    Surrounded by their guards and garrisons!

          Some slanderous tool of state,
    Some taunting, dull, unmannered deputy!

The words in italics were to be expunged from the following passages:

    Tis ours to rescue from the oblivious grave
    _Where tyrants have contrived to bury them,_
    A gallant race--a nation--_and her fame;
    To gather up the fragments of our state,
    And in its cold, dismembered body, breathe
    The living soul of empire._

    Fear God and love the king--the soldier's faith--
    Was always my religion; and I know
    No heretics but cowards, knaves, and traitors--
    _No, no, whate'er the colour of his creed,
    The man of honour's orthodox._

It is difficult now to discover what offence was contained in these
lines, and many more such as these, which were also denounced by the
Licenser. Shee expostulated--for he was not a meek sort of man by any
means, and he knew the advantages of a stir to one aiming at
publicity--appealed from the subordinate to the superior, from the
Examiner to the Chamberlain, then the Duke of Montrose, and wrote to
the newspapers; but all in vain. The tragedy could not be performed.
That the stage lost much it would be rash to assert. "Alasco" was
published, and those who read it--they were not many--found it
certainly harmless; but not less certainly pompous and wearisome.
However, that Shee was furnished with a legitimate grievance was
generally agreed, although in "Blackwood's Magazine," then very
intense in its Toryism, it was hinted that the dramatist, his religion
and his nationality being considered, might be in league with the
author of "Captain Rock," and engaged in seditious designs against the
peace and Protestantism of Ireland! Some five years later, it may be
noted, "Alasco" was played at the Surrey Theatre, without the
slightest regard for the opinion of the Examiner of Plays, or with any
change in the passages he had ordered to be expunged. Westminster was
not then very well informed as to what happened in Lambeth, and
probably it was not generally known that "Alasco," with all its
supposed seditious utterances unsilenced, could be witnessed upon the
Surrey stage. Nor is there any record that anybody was at all the
worse, or the treasury of the theatre any the better, for the
representation of the forbidden tragedy.

The Examiner of Plays at this time was George Colman the younger, who
was appointed to the office, less on account of the distinction he
enjoyed as a dramatist, than because he was a favourite and a sort of
boon companion of George IV. Colman had succeeded a Mr. Larpent, who
had filled the post for some twenty years, and who, notwithstanding
that, as a strict Methodist, he scarcely seemed a very fit person to
pronounce judgment upon stage plays, had exercised the powers
entrusted to him with moderation. It was generally agreed that he was
a considerate and benignant ruler, and that his career as Examiner
offered few occasions for remark, although upon its close some
surprise was excited at the exposure for sale by public auction of the
many manuscripts of plays, &c., which were found in his possession,
and which should certainly have been preserved among the archives of
the Chamberlain's office. Colman, however, proved a very tyrant--a
consummate Jack-in-office. As a gentleman of rather unbridled habits
of life, and the author of "Broad Grins" and other works certainly
paying small heed to the respectabilities, it had been hoped that he
would deal leniently with his brother playwrights. But he carried to
fanatic extravagance his devotion to the purity of the stage. Warned
by earlier example, few dramas which could possibly be considered of a
political complexion were now submitted for examination. Still the
diction of the stage demanded a measure of liberty. But Mr. Colman
would not allow a lover to describe his mistress as "an angel." He
avowed that "an angel was a character in Scripture, and not to be
profaned on the stage by being applied to a woman!" The exclamation,
"Oh, Providence!" was not permitted. The words "heaven" and "hell" he
uniformly expunged. "Oh, lud!" and "Oh, la!" were condemned for
irreverence. Oaths and all violent expletives were strictly

Now it was rather an imprecatory age. Men swore in those days, not
meaning much harm, or particularly conscious of what they were doing,
but as a matter of bad habit, in pursuance of a custom certainly
odious enough, but which they had not originated, and could hardly be
expected immediately to overcome. In this way malediction formed part
of the manners of the time. How could these be depicted upon the stage
in the face of Mr. Colman's new ordinance? There was great
consternation among actors and authors. Plays came back from the
Examiner's office so slashed with red ink that they seemed to be
bleeding from numerous wounds; line after line had been prohibited;
and by Colman of all people! Critics amused themselves by searching
through his own dramatic writings, and cataloguing the bad language
they contained. The list was very formidable. There were comminations
and anathemas in almost every scene. The matter was pointed out to
him, but he treated it with indifference. He was a writer of plays
then; but now he was Examiner of Plays. His point of view was changed,
that was all. It was no fault of his if there had been neglect of duty
on the part of previous examiners. Mr. Arnold, the proprietor and
manager of the Lyceum Theatre, expostulated with him on the subject.
In a play by John Banim, one of the authors of the "Tales of the
O'Hara Family," Colman had forbidden certain lines to be chanted by
monks and nuns in a scene of a foreign cathedral. It was too profane.
What about the singing of "God save the King" upon the stage? That had
been sanctioned by custom, Colman maintained; but he could not regard
it as a precedent. Was he prepared to mutilate Portia's great speech
in the "Merchant of Venice?" Certainly he was; but then custom had
sanctioned it, and playgoers were not prepared for any meddling with
the text of Shakespeare. He admitted, however, that he did not trouble
himself to ascertain whether his excisions were carried into effect
when the plays came to be represented. "My duty," he said, "is simply
to object to everything immoral or politically dangerous. When I have
marked my objections the play is licensed, subject to the omission of
the passages objected to; beyond this I have nothing to do, or an
examiner would become a spy as well as a censor on the theatre." Any
breach of the law was therefore left to be remedied by the action of
the "common informer" of the period.

As evidence of Colman's lack of conscientiousness in this matter, a
letter he wrote to Mr. Frederick Yates, in 1829, may be cited. A
dramatic author, the friend both of Colman and Yates, had bitterly
complained of the retrenchments made by the Examiner in a certain
play, or, to follow Colman's own words, had stated "that his comedy
would be sure to be damned by the public, owing to the removal of some
devilish good jokes by the Examiner." "Cannot you, my dear Fred,
instruct him better?" wrote Colman. "The play, you know, must be
printed in strict accordance with my obliterations; but if the parts
be previously given out, it will be difficult to induce the actors to
preach from my text!" No doubt upon this hint the actors spake. Only,
in that case, of what good was the Examiner, regarded as a public

It was questioned at the time whether the Chamberlain, by his deputy,
was not exercising more authority than he was really clothed with,
under virtue of the Licensing Act. He was entitled to prohibit the
performance of any play; but could he make terms with the managers,
and cut and carve their manuscripts, forcing upon them his capricious
alterations? Further, it was asked by what right he delegated his
power to another? The Act made no mention of his deputy or of such an
officer as an Examiner of Plays. And then, as to the question of fees.
What right had he to exact fees? There was no mention of fees in the
Act. No doubt the managers had long been in the habit of paying
fees--£2 2s. for every piece, song, &c. But it was urged that this was
simply to secure expedition in the examination of their plays, which
they were bound to submit to the Chamberlain fourteen days at least
before representation, and not in pursuance of any legal enactment.
The Examiner of Plays received a salary from the Chamberlain for the
labour he performed; why should he levy a tax upon managers and
authors, and so be paid twice over for the same work?

Now, on the subject of fees Colman was certainly most rapacious. He
spared no effort to increase, in this way, the emoluments of his
office. Did an actor on a benefit night advertise any new songs,
glees, or other musical performance--Colman was prompt to demand a fee
of £2 2s. for every separate production. Occasional addresses,
prologues, and epilogues, were all rated as distinct stage plays, and
the customary fees insisted upon. One actor, long famous as "Little
Knight," so far defeated this systematic extortion that he strung
together a long list of songs, recitations, imitations, &c., which he
wished to have performed at his benefit with any nonsense of dialogue
that came into his head, and so sent them to be licensed as one piece.
They were licensed accordingly; the dialogue was all omitted, and the
ingenious actor aided his benefit by saving £8 8s. or £10 10s., which
would otherwise have found their way into the pocket of the Examiner.
When the French plays were performed in London, in 1829, Colman
insisted that a fee must be paid for every vaudeville or other light
piece of that class produced. As some three or four of such works were
presented every night--the same plays being rarely repeated--it was
computed that the Examiner's fees amounted upon an average to £6 6s. a
night. During an interval, however, the Duke of Devonshire succeeding
the Duke of Montrose as Chamberlain, this demand was not enforced;
eventually a compromise was agreed upon, and a reduced fee of £1 1s.
was levied upon each vaudeville, &c. Colman even succeeded in rating
as a stage play, an astronomical lecture, delivered at the Lyceum. The
"At Homes" of Mathews were of course taxed, a "slight sketch and
title" being submitted to the Examiner, the actor professing to speak
without any precise text, but simply from "heads and hints before him
to refer to should his memory falter." In an attempt to levy a fee on
account of an oratorio performed at Covent Garden, Colman failed,
however; it was proved that the libretto was entirely composed of
passages from the Scriptures. After great discussion it was ultimately
decided that the Bible did not need the license of the Lord

Colman died in 1836, and was succeeded as Examiner of Plays by Mr.
Charles Kemble, who, strange to say, while holding that appointment
returned to the stage for a short season and performed certain of his
most celebrated characters. He resigned the office in 1840, and his
son John Mitchell Kemble then held it in his stead. On the death of
John Mitchell Kemble, in 1857, Mr. William Bodham Donne, the late
Examiner, received the appointment. Mr. Donne, however, had in truth
performed the duties of the office as the deputy of the Chamberlain's
deputy since the year 1849. As he informed the Parliamentary committee
of 1866, he had received a salary of £320, subject to deduction on
account of income-tax. Further, the Examiner receives fees for every
play examined. Two guineas are paid for every play of three acts or
more; under three acts the fee is £1 1s. For every song sung in a
theatre a fee of 5s. is paid. As Mr. Donne explained to the
committee, he had examined between 1857 and 1866 about 1800 plays.

It is to be noted that in 1843 the Act for Regulating Theatres,
commonly known as Sir James Graham's Act, became law. By this measure
the powers of the Lord Chamberlain were enlarged and more firmly
established; he was empowered to charge such fees as he might deem fit
in regard to every play, prologue, epilogue, or part thereof, intended
to be produced or acted in Great Britain, although no fee was in any
case to exceed £2 2s. in amount. Further, it was made lawful for him,
whenever he should be of opinion that it was fitting for the
preservation of good manners, decorum, or of the public peace so to
do, to forbid the performance of any stage play, or any act, scene or
part thereof, or any prologue or epilogue or any part thereof,
anywhere in Great Britain or in any such theatre as he should specify,
and either absolutely or for such time as he should think fit. It was
enacted, moreover, that the term "stage play" should be taken to
include "every tragedy, comedy, farce, opera, burletta, interlude,
melodrama, pantomime, or other entertainment of the stage."

The Act provides for no appeal against the decision of the
Chamberlain. His government was to be quite absolute. If he chose to
prohibit the performance of Shakespeare's plays, for instance, no one
could question his right to take that strong measure; only another Act
of Parliament could, under such circumstances, restore Shakespeare, to
the stage. Of the Examiner of Plays the Act made no mention: that
office continued to be the creation simply of the Lord Chamberlain,
and without any sort of legal status. The old Licensing Act of 1737
was absolutely repealed; yet, unaccountably enough, Mr. Donne's
appointment, bearing date 1857, and signed by the Marquis of
Breadalbane, then Lord Chamberlain, began: "Whereas in consequence of
an Act of Parliament, made in the tenth year of the reign of His late
Majesty King George the Second," &c. &c.

The intensity of George Colman's regard for "good manners and decorum"
has no doubt furnished a precedent to later Examiners. For some time
little effort was made again to apply the stage to the purposes of
political satire. Mr. Buckstone informed the Parliamentary Committee
that an attempt made about 1846, to represent the House of Commons
upon the stage of the Adelphi--Mr. Buckstone was to have personated
the Lord John Russell of that date--had been promptly forbidden; and
the late Mr. Shirley Brooks stated that a project of dramatising Mr.
Disraeli's novel of "Coningsby" had also, in regard to its political
bearing, been interdicted by the Chamberlain. Few other essays in this
direction appear worth noting, until we come to a few seasons back,
when certain members of the administration were caricatured upon the
stage of the Court Theatre, after a fashion that speedily brought down
the rebuke of the Chamberlain, and the exhibition was prohibited
within his jurisdiction. But the question of "good manners and
decorum" has induced much controversy. For where, indeed, is
discoverable an acceptable standard of "good manners and decorum"? In
such matters there is always growth and change of opinion. Sir Walter
Scott makes mention of an elderly lady, who, reading over again
certain books she had deemed in her youth to be of a most harmless
kind, was shocked at their exceeding grossness. She had unconsciously
moved on with the civilising and refining influences of her time. And
the question of morality in relation to the drama is confessedly very
difficult to deal with. "It must be something almost of a scandalous
character to warrant interference," says Mr. Donne. "If you sift the
matter to the very dross, two-thirds of the plays of any period in the
history of the stage must be condemned. Where there is an obvious
intention, or a very strong suspicion of an intention to make wrong
appear right or right appear wrong, those are the cases in which I
interfere, or those in which there is any open scandal, or any
inducement to do wrong is offered; but stage morality is--the morality
of the stage, and generally, quite as good as the morality of the
literature of fiction." This does not define the Examiner's principle
of action very clearly. As instances of his procedure, it may be
stated that upon religious grounds he has forbidden such operas as the
"Nabuco" of Verdi and the "Mosé in Egitto" of Rossini, allowing them
to be presented, however, when their names were changed to "Nino" and
"Zora" or "Pietro l'Eremita" respectively. On the other hand, while
prohibiting "La Dame aux Camélias"[1] of M. Alexandre Dumas fils, he
has sanctioned its performance as the opera "La Traviata." "I think,"
explained Mr. Donne, "that if there is a musical version of a piece it
makes a difference, for the story is then subsidiary to the music and
singing." Prohibiting "Jack Sheppard" he yet licensed for
representation an adaptation of a French version of the same piece.
Madame Ristori was not allowed to appear in the tragedy of "Myrrha,"
and the dramas which French companies of players visiting this country
from time to time have designed to produce, have been severely dealt
with, the Examiner forgetting, apparently, that such works should
rather be judged by a foreign than a native standard of "good manners
and decorum." As a result, we have the strange fact of the Examiner
stepping between the English public and what have been judged to be
the masterpieces of the French stage.

     [1] "La Dame aux Camélias" obtained a license at last, and was
     played for the first time in England at the Gaiety Theatre, on
     the 11th June, 1881, with Mdlle. Sarah Bernhardt as the
     representative of the leading character.

The Chamberlain has also held it to be a part of his duty to interfere
in regard to certain of the costumes of the theatre, when these seemed
to be more scanty than seemliness required, and from time to time he
has addressed expostulations to the managers upon the subject. It must
not be concluded, however, that from his action in the matter, much
change or amendment has ensued.

In America there is no Lord Chamberlain, Examiner of Plays, or any
corresponding functionary. The stage may be no better for the absence
of such an officer, but it does not seem to be any the worse.

In 1832, the late Lord Lytton (then Mr. Bulwer), addressing the House
of Commons on the laws affecting dramatic literature, said of the
authority vested in the Lord Chamberlain: "I am at a loss to know what
advantages we have gained by the grant of this almost unconstitutional
power. Certainly, with regard to a censor, a censor upon plays seems
to me as idle and unnecessary as a censor upon books.... The public
taste, backed by the vigilant admonition of the public press, may,
perhaps, be more safely trusted for the preservation of theatrical
decorum, than any ignorant and bungling censor who (however well the
office may be now fulfilled) might be appointed hereafter; who, while
he might strain at gnats and cavil at straws, would be without any
other real power than that of preventing men of genius from submitting
to the caprice of his opinions."



Are there, nowadays, any collectors of playbills? In the catalogues of
secondhand booksellers are occasionally to be found such entries as:
"Playbills of the Theatre Royal, Bath, 1807 to 1812;" or "Hull Theatre
Royal--various bills of performances between 1815 and 1850;" or
"Covent Garden Theatre--variety of old bills of the last century
pasted in a volume;" yet these evidences of the care and diligence of
past collectors would not seem to obtain much appreciation in the
present. The old treasures can generally be purchased at a very
moderate outlay. Still, if scarceness is an element of value, these
things should be precious. It is in the nature of such ephemera of the
printing-press to live their short hour, and disappear with exceeding
suddenness. They may be originally issued in hundreds or even in
thousands; but once gone they are gone for ever. Relative to such
matters there is an energy of destruction that keeps pace with the
industry of production. The demands of "waste" must be met: fires must
be lighted. So away go the loose papers, sheets and pamphlets of the
minute. They have served their turn, and there is an end of them.
Hence the difficulty of obtaining, when needed, a copy of a newspaper
of old date, or the guide-book or programme of a departed
entertainment, or the catalogue of a past auction of books or
pictures. It has been noted that, notwithstanding the enormous
circulation it enjoyed, the catalogue of our Great Exhibition of a
score of years ago is already a somewhat rare volume. Complete sets of
the catalogues of the Royal Academy's century of exhibitions are
possessed by very few. And of playbills of the English stage from the
Restoration down to the present time, although the British Museum can
certainly boast a rich collection, yet this is disfigured here and
there by gaps and deficiencies which cannot now possibly be supplied.

The playbill is an ancient thing. Mr. Payne Collier states that the
practice of printing information as to the time, place, and nature of
the performances to be presented by the players was certainly common
prior to the year 1563. John Northbrooke, in his treatise against
theatrical performers, published about 1579, says: "They used to set
up their bills upon posts some certain days before, to admonish people
to make resort to their theatres." The old plays make frequent
reference to this posting of the playbills. Thus, in the Induction to
"A Warning for Fair Women," 1599, Tragedy whips Comedy from the stage,

    'Tis you have kept the theatre so long
    Painted in playbills upon every post,
    While I am scorned of the multitude.

Taylor, the water-poet, in his "Wit and Mirth," records the story of
Field the actor's riding rapidly up Fleet Street, and being stopped by
a gentleman with an inquiry as to the play that was to be played that
night. Field, "being angry to be stayed upon so frivolous a demand,
answered, that he might see what play was to be played upon every
post. 'I cry you mercy,' said the gentleman. 'I took you for a post,
you rode so fast.'"

It is strange to find that the right of printing playbills was
originally monopolised by the Stationers' Company. At a later period,
however, the privilege was assumed and exercised by the Crown. In
1620, James I. granted a patent to Roger Wood and Thomas Symcock for
the sole printing, among other things, of "all bills for playes,
pastimes, showes, challenges, prizes, or sportes whatsoever." It was
not until after the Restoration that the playbills contained a list of
the _dramatis personæ_, or of the names of the actors. But it had been
usual, apparently, with the title of the drama, to supply the name of
its author, and its description as a tragedy or comedy. Shirley, in
the prologue to his "Cardinal," apologises for calling it only a
"play" in the bill:

    Think what you please, we call it but a "play:"
    Whether the comic muse, or lady's love,
    Romance or direful tragedy it prove,
    The bill determines not.

From a later passage in the same prologue Mr. Collier judges that the
titles of tragedies were usually printed, for the sake of distinction,
in red ink:

              ----and you would be
    Persuaded I would have't a comedy
    For all the purple in the name.

But this may be a reference to the colour of a cardinal's robes. There
is probably no playbill extant of an earlier date than 1663. About
this time, in the case of a new play, it was usual to state in the
bill that it had been "never acted before."

In the earliest days of the stage, before the invention of printing,
the announcement that theatrical performances were about to be
exhibited was made by sound of trumpet, much after the manner of
modern strollers and showmen at fairs and street-corners. Indeed, long
after playbills had become common, this musical advertisement was
still requisite for the due information of the unlettered patrons of
the stage. In certain towns the musicians were long looked upon as the
indispensable heralds of the actors. Tate Wilkinson, writing in 1790,
records that a custom obtained at Norwich, "and if abolished it has
not been many years," of proclaiming in every street with drum and
trumpet the performances to be presented at the theatre in the
evening. A like practice also prevailed at Grantham. To the
Lincolnshire company of players, however, this musical preface to
their efforts seemed objectionable and derogatory, and they
determined, on one of their visits to the town, to dispense with the
old-established sounds. But the reform resulted in empty benches.
Thereupon the "revered, well-remembered, and beloved Marquis of
Granby" sent for the manager of the troop and thus addressed him: "Mr.
Manager, I like a play; I like a player; and I shall be glad to serve
you. But, my good friend, why are you all so offended at and averse to
the noble sound of a drum? I like it, and all the inhabitants like
it. Put my name on your playbill, provided you drum, but not
otherwise. Try the effect on to-morrow night; if then you are as
thinly attended as you have lately been, shut up your playhouse at
once; but if it succeeds, drum away!" The players withdrew their
opposition and followed the counsel of the marquis. The musical
prelude was again heard in the streets of Grantham, and crowded houses
were obtained. The company enjoyed a prosperous season, and left the
town in great credit. "And I am told," adds Wilkinson, "the custom is
continued at Grantham to this day."

An early instance of the explanatory address, signed by the dramatist
or manager, which so frequently accompanies the modern playbill, is to
be found in the fly-sheet issued by Dryden in 1665. The poet thought
it expedient in this way to inform the audience that his tragedy of
"The Indian Emperor" was to be regarded as a sequel to a former work,
"The Indian Queen," which he had written in conjunction with his
brother-in-law, Sir Robert Howard. The handbill excited some
amusement, by reason of its novelty, for in itself it was but a simple
and useful intimation. In ridicule of this proceeding, Bayes, the hero
of the Duke of Buckingham's burlesque, "The Rehearsal," is made to
say: "I have printed above a hundred sheets of paper to insinuate the
plot into the boxes."

Chetwood, who had been twenty years prompter at Drury Lane, and in
1749 published a "History of the Stage," describes a difficulty that
had arisen in regard to printing the playbills. Of old the list of
characters had been set forth according to the books of the plays,
without regard to the merits of the performers. "As, for example, in
'Macbeth,' Duncan, King of Scotland, appeared first in the bill,
though acted by an insignificant person, and so every other actor
appeared according to his dramatic dignity, all of the same-sized
letter. But latterly, I can assure my readers, I have found it a
difficult task to please some ladies as well as gentlemen, because I
could not find letters large enough to please them; and some were so
fond of elbow room that they would have shoved everybody out but
themselves, as if one person was to do all and have the merit of all,
like generals of an army." Garrick seems to have been the first actor
honoured by capital letters of extra size in the playbills. "The
Connoisseur," in 1754, says: "The writer of the playbills deals out
his capitals in so just a proportion that you may tell the salary of
each actor by the size of the letter in which his name is printed.
When the present manager of Drury Lane first came on the stage, a new
set of types, two inches long, were cast on purpose to do honour to
his extraordinary merit." These distinctions in the matter of printing
occasioned endless jealousies among the actors. Macklin made it an
express charge against his manager, Sheridan, the actor, that he was
accustomed to print his own name in larger type than was permitted the
other performers. Kean threatened to throw up his engagement at Drury
Lane on account of his name having been printed in capitals of a
smaller size than usual. His engagement of 1818 contained a condition,
"and also that his name shall be continued in the bills of performance
in the same manner as it is at present," viz., large letters. On the
other hand, Dowton, the comedian, greatly objected to having his name
thus particularised, and expostulated with Elliston, his manager, on
the subject. "I am sorry you have done this," he wrote. "You know well
what I mean. This cursed quackery. These big letters. There is a want
of respectability about it, or rather a notoriety, which gives one the
feeling of an absconded felon, against whom a hue-and-cry is made
public. Or if there be really any advantage in it, why should I, or
any single individual, take it over the rest of our brethren? But it
has a nasty disreputable look, and I have fancied the whole day the
finger of the town pointed at me, as much as to say, 'That is he! Now
for the reward!' Leave this expedient to the police officers, or to
those who have a taste for it. I have none."

Macready, under date of 28th September, 1840, enters in his journal:
"Spoke to Webster on the subject of next year's engagement. He said
that he understood I had said that while I was comfortable at the
Haymarket I would stay. _I mentioned the position of my name on the
playbills; that it should not, on any occasion be put under any other
person's, as it had been_; that I should have the right to a private
box when they were not let," &c.

O'Keeffe relates that once when an itinerant showman brought over to
Dublin a trained monkey of great acquirements, Mossop engaged the
animal at a large salary to appear for a limited number of nights at
his theatre. Mossop's name in the playbill was always in a type nearly
two inches long, the rest of the performers' names being in very small
letters. But to the monkey were devoted capitals of equal size to
Mossop's; so that, greatly to the amusement of the public, on the
playbills pasted about the town, nothing could be distinguished but
the words, MOSSOP, MONKEY. Under John Kemble's management, "for his
greater ease and the quiet of the theatre," letters of unreasonable
size were abandoned, and the playbills were printed after an amended
and more modest pattern.

With the rise and growth of the press came the expediency of
advertising the performances of the theatres in the columns of the
newspapers. To the modern manager advertisements are a very formidable
expense. The methods he is compelled to resort to in order to bring
his plays and players well under the notice of the public, involve a
serious charge upon his receipts. But of old the case was precisely
the reverse. The theatres were strong, the newspapers were weak. So
far from the manager paying money for the insertion of his
advertisements in the journals, he absolutely received profits on this
account. The press then suffered under severe restrictions, and was
most jealously regarded by the governing powers; leading articles were
as yet unknown; the printing of parliamentary debates was strictly
prohibited; foreign intelligence was scarcely obtainable; of home news
there was little stirring that could with safety be promulgated. So
that the proceedings of the theatres became of real importance to the
newspaper proprietor, and it was worth his while to pay considerable
sums for early information in this respect. Moreover, in those days,
not merely by reason of its own merits, but because of the absence of
competing attractions and other sources of entertainment, the stage
was much more than at present an object of general regard. In Andrew's
"History of British Journalism" it is recorded on the authority of the
ledger of Henry Woodfall, the publisher of the _Public Advertiser_:
"The theatres are a great expense to the papers. Amongst the items of
payment are: Playhouses, £100. Drury Lane advertisements, £64 8s. 6d.;
Covent Garden ditto, £66 11s. The papers paid £200 a-year to each
theatre for the accounts of new plays, and would reward the messenger
with a shilling or half-a-crown who brought them the first copy of a
playbill." In 1721, the following announcement appeared in the _Daily
Post_: "The managers of Drury Lane think it proper to give notice that
advertisements of their plays, by their authority, are published only
in this paper and the _Daily Courant_, and that the publishers of all
other papers who insert advertisements of the same plays, can do it
only by some surreptitious intelligence or hearsay, which frequently
leads them to commit gross errors, as, mentioning one play for
another, falsely representing the parts, &c., to the misinformation of
the town, and the great detriment of the said theatre." And the
_Public Advertiser_ of January 1st, 1765, contains a notice: "To
prevent any mistake in future in advertising the plays and
entertainments of Drury Lane Theatre, the managers think it proper to
declare that the playbills are inserted by their direction in this
paper only." It is clear that the science of advertising was but dimly
understood at this date. Even the shopkeepers then paid for the
privilege of exhibiting bills in their windows, whereas now they
require to be rewarded for all exertions of this kind, by, at any
rate, free admissions to the entertainments advertised, if not by a
specific payment of money. The exact date when the managers began to
pay instead of receive on the score of their advertisements, is hardly
to be ascertained. Genest, in his laborious "History of the Stage,"
says obscurely of the year 1745: "At this time the plays were
advertised at three shillings and sixpence each night or advertisement
in the _General Advertiser_." It may be that the adverse systems went
on together for some time. The managers may have paid certain journals
for the regular insertion of advertisements, and received payment from
less favoured or less influential newspapers for theatrical news or

One of Charles Lamb's most pleasant papers arose from "the casual
sight of an old playbill which I picked up the other day; I know not
by what chance it was preserved so long." It was but two-and-thirty
years old, however, and presented the cast of parts in "Twelfth Night"
at Old Drury Lane Theatre, destroyed by fire in 1809. Lamb's delight
in the stage needs not to be again referred to. "There is something
very touching in these old remembrances," he writes. "They make us
think how we once used to read a playbill, not as now, peradventure
singling out a favourite performer and casting a negligent eye over
the rest; but spelling out every name down to the very mutes and
servants of the scene; when it was a matter of no small moment to us
whether Whitfield or Packer took the part of Fabian; when Benson, and
Burton, and Phillimore--names of small account--had an importance
beyond what we can be content to attribute now to the time's best
actors." The fond industry with which a youthful devotee of the
theatre studies the playbills could hardly be more happily indicated
than in this extract.

Mention of Old Drury Lane and its burning bring us naturally to the
admirable "story of the flying playbill," contained in the parody of
Crabbe, perhaps the most perfect specimen in that unique collection of
parodies, "Rejected Addresses." The verses by the pseudo-Crabbe
include the following lines:

    Perchance while pit and gallery cry "Hats off!"
    And awed consumption checks his chided cough,
    Some giggling daughter of the Queen of Love
    Drops, reft of pin, her playbill from above;
    Like Icarus, while laughing galleries clap,
    Soars, ducks, and dives in air the printed scrap;
    But, wiser far than he, combustion fears;
    And, as it flies, eludes the chandeliers;
    Till, sinking gradual, with repeated twirl,
    It settles, curling, on a fiddler's curl,
    Who from his powdered pate the intruder strikes,
    And, for mere malice, sticks it on the spikes.

"The story of the flying playbill," says the mock-preface, "is
calculated to expose a practice, much too common, of pinning playbills
to the cushions insecurely, and frequently, I fear, not pinning them
at all. If these lines save one playbill only from the fate I have
recorded, I shall not deem my labour ill employed."

Modern playbills may be described as of two classes, indoor and
out-of-door. The latter are known also as "posters," and may thus
manifest their connection with the early method of "setting up
playbills upon posts." Shakespeare's audiences were not supplied with
handbills as our present playgoers are; such of them as could read
were probably content to derive all the information they needed from
the notices affixed to the doors of the theatre, or otherwise publicly
exhibited. Of late years the vendors of playbills, who were wont
urgently to pursue every vehicle that seemed to them bound to the
theatre, in the hope of disposing of their wares, have greatly
diminished in numbers, if they have not wholly disappeared. Many
managers have forbidden altogether the sale of bills outside the doors
of their establishments. The indoor programmes are again divided into
two kinds. To the lower-priced portions of the house an inferior bill
is devoted; a folio sheet of thin paper, heavily laden and strongly
odorous with printers' ink. Visitors to the more expensive seats are
now supplied with a scented bill of octavo size, which is generally,
in addition, the means of advertising the goods and inventions of an
individual perfumer. Attempts to follow Parisian example, and to make
the playbill at once a vehicle for general advertisements and a source
of amusing information upon theatrical subjects, have been ventured
here occasionally, but without decided success. From time to time
papers started with this object under such titles as the "Opera
Glass," the "Curtain," the "Drop Scene," &c., have appeared, but they
have failed to secure a sufficiency of patronage. The playgoer's
openness to receive impressions or information of any kind by way of
employment during the intervals of representation, has not been
unperceived by the advertisers, however, and now and then, as a
result, a monstrosity called an "advertising curtain" has disfigured
the stage. Some new development of the playbill in this direction may
be in store for us in the future. The difficulty lies, perhaps, in the
gilding of the pill. Advertisements by themselves are not very
attractive reading, and a mixed audience cannot safely be credited
with a ruling appetite merely for dramatic intelligence.



It is rather the public than the player that strolls nowadays. The
theatre is stationary--the audience peripatetic. The wheels have been
taken off the cart of Thespis. Hamlet's line, "Then came each actor on
his ass," or the stage direction in the old "Taming of the Shrew"
(1594), "Enter two players with packs on their backs," no longer
describes accurately the travelling habits of the histrionic
profession. But of old the country folk had the drama brought as it
were to their doors, and just as they purchased their lawn and
cambric, ribbons and gloves, and other raiment and bravery of the
wandering pedlar--the Autolycus of the period--so all their playhouse
learning and experience they acquired from the itinerant actors. These
were rarely the leading performers of the established London
companies, however, unless it so happened that the capital was
suffering from a visitation of the plague. "Starring in the provinces"
was not an early occupation of the players of good repute. As a rule,
it was only the inferior actors who quitted town, and as Dekker
contemptuously says, "travelled upon the hard hoof from village to
village for cheese and buttermilk." "How chances it they travel?"
inquires Hamlet concerning "the tragedians of the city"--"their
_residence_ both in reputation and profit were better both ways." John
Stephens, writing in 1615, and describing "a common player," observes,
"I prefix the epithet 'common' to distinguish the base and artless
appendants of our City companies, which oftentimes start away into
rustical wanderings, and then, like Proteus, start back again into
the City number." The strollers were of two classes, however. First,
the theatrical companies protected by some great personage, wearing
his badge or crest, and styling themselves his "servants"--just as to
this day the Drury Lane troop, under warrant of Davenant's patent,
still boast the title of "Her Majesty's Servants"--who attended at
country seats, and gave representations at the request or by the
permission of the great people of the neighbourhood; and secondly, the
mere unauthorised itinerants, with no claim to distinction beyond such
as their own merits accorded to them, who played in barns, or in large
inn-yards and rooms, and against whom was especially levelled the Act
of Elizabeth declaring that all players, &c., "not licensed by any
baron or person of high rank, or by two justices of the peace, should
be deemed and treated as rogues and vagabonds."

The suppression of the theatres by the Puritans reduced all the
players to the condition of strollers of the lowest class. Legally
their occupation was gone altogether. Stringent measures were taken to
abolish stage-plays and interludes, and by an Act passed in 1647, all
actors of plays for the time to come were declared rogues within the
meaning of the Act of Elizabeth, and upon conviction were to be
publicly whipped for the first offence, and for the second to be
deemed incorrigible rogues, and dealt with accordingly; all stage
galleries, seats, and boxes were to be pulled down by warrant of two
justices of the peace; all money collected from the spectators was to
be appropriated to the poor of the parish; and all spectators of
plays, for every offence, fined five shillings. Assuredly these were
very hard times for players, playhouses, and playgoers. Still the
theatre was hard to kill. In 1648, a provost-marshal was nominated to
stimulate the vigilance and activity of the lord mayor, justices, and
sheriffs, and among other duties, "to seize all ballad-singers and
sellers of malignant pamphlets, and to send them to the several
militias, and to suppress stage-plays." Yet, all this notwithstanding,
some little show of life stirred now and then in the seeming corpse of
the drama. A few players met furtively, assembled a select audience,
and gave a clandestine performance, more or less complete, in some
obscure quarter. Secret Royalists and but half-hearted Puritans
abounded, and these did not scruple to abet a breach of the law, and
to be entertained now and then in the old time-honoured way.

With the Restoration, however, Thespis enjoyed his own again, and sock
and buskin became once more lawful articles of apparel. Charles II.
mounted the throne arm-in-arm, as it were, with a player-king and
queen. The London theatres reopened under royal patronage, and in the
provinces the stroller was abroad. He had his enemies, no doubt.
Prejudice is long-lived, of robust constitution. Puritanism had struck
deep root in the land, and though the triumphant Cavaliers might hew
its branches, strip off its foliage, and hack at its trunk, they could
by no means extirpate it altogether. Religious zealotry, strenuous and
stubborn, however narrow, had fostered, and parliamentary enactments
had warranted, hostility of the most uncompromising kind to the player
and his profession. To many he was still, his new liberty and
privileges notwithstanding, but "a son of Belial"--ever of near kin to
the rogue and the vagabond, with the stocks and the whipping-post
still in his immediate neighbourhood, let him turn which way he would.
And then, certainly, his occupation had its seamy side. With this the
satirists, who loved censure rather for its wounding than its healing
properties, made great play. They were never tired of pointing out and
ridiculing the rents in the stroller's coat; his shifts, trials,
misfortunes, follies, were subjects for ceaseless derision. What Grub
Street and "penny-a-lining" have been to the vocation of letters,
strolling and "barn-strutting" became to the histrionic profession--an
excuse for scorn, underrating, and mirth, more or less bitter.

Still strolling had its charms. To the beginner it afforded a kind of
informal apprenticeship, with the advantage that while a learner of
its mysteries, he could yet style himself a full member of the
profession of the stage, and share in its profits. He was at once bud
and flower. What though the floor of a ruined barn saw his first crude
efforts, might not the walls of a patent theatre resound by-and-by
with delighted applause, tribute to his genius? It was a free, frank,
open vocation he had adopted; it was unprotected and unrestricted by
legislative provisions in the way of certificates, passes,
examinations, and diplomas. There was no need of ticket, or voucher,
or preparation of any kind to obtain admission to the ranks of the
players. "Can you shout?" a manager once inquired of a novice. "Then
only shout in the right places, and you'll do." No doubt this implied
that even in the matter of shouting some science is involved. And
there may be men who cannot shout at all, let the places be right or
wrong. Still the stage can find room and subsistence of a sort for
all, even for mutes. But carry a banner, walk in a procession, or form
one of a crowd, and you may still call yourself actor, though not an
actor of a high class, certainly. The histrionic calling is a ladder
of many rungs. Remain on the lowest or mount to the highest--it is
only a question of degree--you are a player all the same.

The Thespian army had no need of a recruiting-sergeant or a press-gang
to reinforce its ranks. There have always been amateurs lured by the
mere spectacle of the foot-lights, as moths by a candle. Crabbe's
description of the strollers in his "Borough" was a favourite passage
with Sir Walter Scott, and was often read to him in his last fatal

    Of various men these marching troops are made,
    Pen-spurning clerks and lads contemning trade;
    Waiters and servants by confinement teased,
    And youths of wealth by dissipation eased;
    With feeling nymphs who, such resource at hand,
    Scorn to obey the rigour of command, &c. &c.

And even to the skilled and experienced actors a wandering life
offered potent attractions. Apart from its liberty and adventure, its
defiance of social convention and restraint, ambition had space to
stir, and vanity could be abundantly indulged in the itinerant
theatre. Dekker speaks of the bad presumptuous players, who out of a
desire to "wear the best jerkin," and to "act great parts, forsake the
stately and more than Roman city stages," and join a strolling
company. By many it was held better to reign in a vagrant than to
serve in an established troop--preferable to appear as Hamlet in the
provinces than to play Horatio or Guildenstern in town. And then, in
the summer months, when the larger London houses were closed,
strolling became a matter of necessity with a large number of actors;
they could gain a subsistence in no other way. "The little theatre in
the Haymarket," as it was wont to be called, which opened its doors in
summer, when its more important neighbours had concluded their
operations, could only offer engagements to a select few of their
companies. The rest must needs wander. Whatever their predilections,
they were strollers upon compulsion.

Indeed, strolling was only feasible during summer weather. Audiences
could hardly be moved from their firesides in winter, barns were too
full of grain to be available for theatrical purposes, and the players
were then glad to secure such regular employment as they could,
however slender might be the scale of their remuneration. There is a
story told of a veteran and a tyro actor walking in the fields early
in the year, when, suddenly, the elder ran from the path, stopped
abruptly, and planting his foot firmly upon the green-sward, exclaimed
with ecstasy: "Three, by heaven! _That_ for managers!" and snapped his
fingers. His companion asked an explanation of this strange conduct.
"You'll know before you have strutted in three more barns," said the
"old hand." "In winter, managers are the most impudent fellows living,
because they know we don't like to travel, don't like to leave our
nests, fear the cold, and all that. But when I can put my foot upon
three daisies--summer's near, and managers may whistle for me!"

The life was not dignified, perhaps, but it had certain picturesque
qualities. The stroller toiling on his own account, "padding the
hoof," as he called journeying on foot--a small bundle under his arm,
containing a few clothes and professional appliances--wandered from
place to place, stopping now at a fair, now at a tavern, now at a
country-house, to deliver recitations and speeches, and to gain such
reward for his labours as he might. Generally he found it advisable,
however, to join a company of his brethren and share profits with
them, parting from them again upon a difference of opinion or upon the
receipts diminishing too seriously, when he would again rely upon his
independent exertions. Sometimes the actor was able to hire or
purchase scenes and dresses, the latter being procured generally from
certain shops in Monmouth Street dealing in cast clothes and tarnished
frippery that did well enough for histrionic purposes; then, engaging
a company, he would start from London as a manager, to visit certain
districts where it was thought that a harvest might be reaped. The
receipts were divided among the troop upon a prearranged method. The
impresario took shares in his different characters of manager,
proprietor, and actor. Even the fragments of the candles that had
lighted the representations were divided amongst the company.
Permission had always to be sought of the local magnates before a
performance could be given; and the best-dressed and most
cleanly-looking actor was deputed to make this application, as well as
to conciliate the farmer or innkeeper, whose barn, stable, or great
room was to be hired for the occasion. Churchill writes:

    The strolling tribe, a despicable race,
    Like wandering Arabs, shift from place to place.
    Vagrants by law, to justice open laid,
    They tremble, of the beadle's lash afraid;
    And fawning, cringe for wretched means of life
    To Madame Mayoress or his worship's wife.

"I'm a justice of the peace and know how to deal with strollers," says
Sir Tunbelly, with an air of menace, in "The Relapse." The
magistrates, indeed, were much inclined to deal severely with the
wandering actor, eyeing his calling with suspicion, and prompt to
enforce the laws against him. Thus we find in "Humphrey Clinker," the
mayor of Gloucester eager to condemn as a vagrant, and to commit to
prison with hard labour, young Mr. George Dennison, who, in the guise
of Wilson, a strolling player, had presumed to make love to Miss Lydia
Melford, the heroine of the story.

In truth, the stroller's life, with all its seeming license and
independence, must always have been attended with hardship and
privation. If the player had ever deemed his art the "idle calling"
many declared it to be, he was soon undeceived on that head. There was
but a thin partition between him and absolute want; meanwhile his
labour was incessant. The stage is a conservative institution,
adhering closely to old customs, manners, and traditions, and what
strolling had once been it continued to be almost for centuries. "A
company of strolling comedians," writes the author of "The Road to
Ruin," who had himself strolled in early life, "is a small kingdom, of
which the manager is the monarch. Their code of laws seems to have
existed, with little variation, since the days of Shakespeare." Who
can doubt that Hogarth's famous picture told the truth, not only of
the painter's own time, but of the past and of the future? The poor
player followed a sordid and wearisome routine. He was constrained to
devote long hours to rehearsal and to the study of various parts,
provided always he could obtain a sight of the book of the play, for
the itinerant theatre afforded no copyist then to write neatly out
each actor's share in the dialogues and speeches. Night brought the
performance, and, for the player engaged as "utility," infinite change
of dress and "making-up" of his face to personate a variety of
characters. The company would, probably, be outnumbered by the
_dramatis personæ_, in which case it would devolve upon the actor to
assume many parts in one play. Thus, supposing Hamlet to be announced
for representation, the stroller of inferior degree might be called
upon to appear as Francisco, afterwards as a lord-in-waiting in the
court scenes, then as Lucianus, "nephew to the king," then as one of
the grave-diggers, then as a lord again, or, it might be, Osric, the
fop, in the last act. Other duties, hardly less arduous, would fall to
him in the after-pieces. "I remember," said King, the actor famous as
being the original Sir Peter Teazle and Lord Ogleby, "that when I had
been but a short time on the stage, I performed one night King
Richard, sang two comic songs, played in an interlude, danced a
hornpipe, spoke a prologue, and was afterwards harlequin, in a sharing
company; and after all this fatigue my share came to threepence and
three pieces of candle!" A strolling manager of a later period was
wont to boast that he had performed the complete melodrama of "Rob
Roy" with a limited company of five men and three women. Hard-worked,
ill-paid, and, consequently, ill-fed, the stroller must have often led
a dreary and miserable life enough. The late Mr. Drinkwater Meadows
used to tell of his experiences with a company that travelled through
Warwickshire, and their treasury being empty, depended for their
subsistence upon their piscatorial skill. They lived for some time,
indeed, upon the trout streams of the county. They plied rod and line,
and learned their parts at the same time. "We could fish and study,
study and fish," said the actor. "I made myself perfect in Bob Acres
while fishing in the Avon, and committed the words to my memory quite
as fast as I committed the fish to my basket."

The straits and necessities of the strollers have long been a source
of entertainment to the public. In an early number of the "Spectator,"
Steele describes a company of poor players then performing at Epping.
"They are far from offending in the impertinent splendour of the
drama. Alexander the Great was acted by a fellow in a paper cravat.
The next day the Earl of Essex seemed to have no distress but his
poverty; and my Lord Foppington wanted any better means to show
himself a fop than by wearing stockings of different colours. In a
word, though they have had a full barn for many days together, our
itinerants are so wretchedly poor that the heroes appear only like
sturdy beggars, and the heroines gipsies." It is added that the stage
of these performers "is here in its original situation of a cart." In
the "Memoirs of Munden" a still stranger stage is mentioned. A
strolling company performing in Wales had for theatre a bedroom, and
for stage a large four-post bed! The spaces on either side were
concealed from the audience by curtains, and formed the tiring-rooms
of the ladies and gentlemen of the troop. On this very curious stage
the comedian afterwards famous as Little Knight, but then new to his
profession, appeared as Acres in "The Rivals," and won great applause.
Goldsmith's Strolling Player is made to reveal many of the smaller
needs and shifts of his calling, especially in the matter of costume.
"We had figures enough, but the difficulty was to dress them. The same
coat that served Romeo, turned with the blue lining outwards, served
for his friend Mercutio: a large piece of crape sufficed at once for
Juliet's petticoat and pall; a pestle and mortar from a neighbouring
apothecary answered all the purposes of a bell; and our landlord's own
family, wrapped in white sheets, served to fill up the procession. In
short, there were but three figures among us that might be said to be
dressed with any propriety; I mean the nurse, the starved apothecary,
and myself." Of his own share in the representation the stroller
speaks candidly enough: "I snuffed the candles, and, let me tell you,
that without a candle-snuffer the piece would lose half its
embellishments." But there has always been forthcoming a very abundant
supply of stories of this kind, not always to be understood literally,
however, concerning the drama under difficulties, and the comical side
of the player's indigence, distresses, and quaint artifices to conceal
his poverty.

A word should be said as to the courage and enterprise of our early
strollers. Travelling is nowadays so easy a matter that we are apt to
forget how solemnly it was viewed by our ancestors. In the last
century a man thought about making his will as a becoming preliminary
to his journeying merely from London to Edinburgh. But the strollers
were true to themselves and their calling, though sometimes the
results of their adventures were luckless enough. "Our plantations in
America have been voluntarily visited by some itinerants, Jamaica in
particular," writes Chetwood, in his "History of the Stage" (1749). "I
had an account from a gentleman who was possessed of a large estate in
the island that a company in the year 1733 came there and cleared a
large sum of money, where they might have made moderate fortunes if
they had not been too busy with the growth of the country. They
received three hundred and seventy pistoles the first night of the
'Beggar's Opera,' but within the space of two months they buried their
third Polly and two of their men. The gentlemen of the island for some
time took their turns upon the stage to keep up the diversion; but
this did not hold long; for in two months more there were but one old
man, a boy, and a woman of the company left. The rest died either with
the country distemper or the common beverage of the place, the noble
spirit of rum-punch, which is generally fatal to new-comers. The
shattered remains, with upwards of two thousand pistoles in bank,
embarked for Carolina, to join another company at Charlestown, but
were cast away in the voyage. Had the company been more blessed with
the virtue of sobriety, &c., they might perhaps have lived to carry
home the liberality of those generous islanders."

It is to be observed that the strolling profession had its divisions
and grades. The "boothers," as they are termed, have to be viewed as
almost a distinct class. These carry their theatre, a booth, about
with them, and only pretend to furnish very abridged presentments of
the drama. With them "Richard III.," for instance, is but an
entertainment of some twenty minutes' duration. They are only anxious
to give as many performances as possible before fresh assemblies of
spectators in as short a time as may be. "Boothers" have been known to
give even six distinct exhibitions on Saturday nights. And they
certainly resort to undignified expedients to lure their audiences.
They parade in their theatrical attire, dance quadrilles and
hornpipes, fight with broadswords, and make speeches on the external
platform of their booth. Histrionic art is seen to little advantage
under these conditions, although it should be said that many notable
players have commenced the study of their profession among the
"boothers." The travelling circus is again a distinct institution, its
tumblers and riders only in a very distant and illegitimate way
connected with even the humblest branches of the great Thespian

But strolling, in its old sense, is fast expiring. Barns have ceased
to be temples of the drama. The railways carry the public to the
established theatres; London stars and companies travelling in
first-class carriages, with their secretary and manager, visit in turn
the provincial towns, and attract all the playgoers of the
neighbourhood. The country manager, retaining but a few "utility
people," is well content to lend his stage to these dignified players,
who stroll only nominally, without "padding the hoof," or the least
chance of hardship or privation attending their rustical wanderings.
Their travels are indeed more in the nature of royal progresses. Even
for the "boothers" times have changed. Waste lands on which to "pitch"
their playhouses are now hard to find; the "pleasure fairs," once
their chief source of profit, become more and more rare; indeed, there
is a prevalent disposition nowadays to abolish altogether those
old-fashioned celebrations. And worse than all, perhaps, the audiences
have become sophisticated and critical, and have not so much simple
faith and hearty goodwill to place at the disposal of the itinerants.
Centralisation has now affected the stage. The country is no longer
the nursery and training-school of the player. He commences his career
in London, and then regales the provinces with an exhibition of his
proficiency. The strollers are now merged in the "stars." The
apprentice has become the master, which may possibly account for the
fact, that the work accomplished is not invariably of first-rate



Acting, as a distinct profession, seems to have been known in England
at least as far back as the reign of Henry VI. There had been
theatrical exhibitions in abundance, however, at a much earlier
period. Stow, in his "Survey of London," in 1599, translates from the
"Life of Thomas à Becket," by Fitzstephen, who wrote about 1182,
mention of "the shews upon theatres and comical pastimes" of London,
"its holy playes, representations of miracles which holy confessors
have wrought, or representations of tormentes wherein the constancie
of martirs appeared." As Mr. Payne Collier observes, "no country in
Europe, since the revival of letters, has been able to produce any
notice of theatrical performances of so early a date as England." But
our primitive stage was a chapel-of-ease, as it were, to the Church.
The plays were founded upon the lives of the saints, or upon the
events of the Old and New Testaments, and were contrived and performed
by the clergy, who borrowed horses, harness, properties, and hallowed
vestments from the monasteries, and did not hesitate even to paint and
disguise their faces, in order to give due effect to their
exhibitions, which were presented not only in the cathedrals,
churches, and cemeteries, but also "on highways or greens," as might
be most convenient. In 1511, for instance, the miracle-play of "St.
George of Cappadocia" was acted in a croft, or field, at Basingborne,
one shilling being paid for the hire of the land. The clergy, however,
were by no means unanimous as to the propriety and policy of these
dramatic representations. They were bitterly attacked in an
Anglo-French poem, the "Manuel de Péché," written about the middle of
the thirteenth century, and ascribed to Robert Grossetête, who became
Bishop of Lincoln in 1235. Gradually the kind of histrionic monopoly
which the Church had long enjoyed was invaded. Education spread, and
many probably found themselves as competent to act as the clergy.
Still, the ecclesiastical performers for some time resisted all
attempts to interfere with what they viewed as their especial
privileges and vested interests. In 1378 the scholars or choristers of
St. Paul's petitioned Richard II. to prohibit certain ignorant and
inexperienced persons from acting the history of the Old Testament, to
the prejudice of the clergy of the Church, who had expended large sums
in preparing plays founded upon the same subject. But some few years
later the parish clerks of London, who had been incorporated by Henry
III., performed at Skinner's Well, near Smithfield, in the presence of
the king, queen, and nobles of the realm, a play which occupied three
days in representation. As Warton remarks, however, in his "History of
English Poetry," the parish clerks of that time might fairly be
regarded as a "literary society," if they did not precisely come under
the denomination of a religious fraternity.

The religious or miracle plays soon extended their boundaries, became
blended with "mummings," or "disguisings," and entertainments of
pageantry. Morals, interludes, and masques were gradually brought upon
the scene. Dancers, singers, jugglers, and minstrels became
indispensable to the performances. The Church and the Theatre drifted
apart; were viewed in time as wholly independent establishments. The
actor asserted his individuality; his profession was recognised as
distinct and complete in itself; companies of players began to stroll
through the provinces. The early moral-play of the "Castle of
Perseverance," which is certainly as old as the reign of Henry VI.,
was represented by itinerant actors, who travelled round the country
for that purpose, preceded by their standard-bearers and trumpeters,
to announce on what day, and at what hour, the performance would take
place. It would seem that the exhibition concluded at nine o'clock in
the morning, so that the playgoers of the period must probably have
assembled so early as six. In the reign of Edward IV. the actors first
obtained parliamentary recognition. The Act passed in 1464,
regulating the apparel to be worn by the different classes of society,
contains special exception in favour of henchmen, pursuivants,
sword-bearers to mayors, messengers, minstrels, and "players in their
interludes." The first royal personage who entertained a company of
players as his servants was probably Richard III. when Duke of
Gloucester, who seems, moreover, to have given great encouragement to
music and musicians. In the reign of Henry VII. dramatic
representations were frequent in all parts of England. The king
himself had two companies of players, the "gentlemen of the chapel,"
and his "players of interludes."

The early actors, whose performances took place in the open air or in
public places, doubtless obtained recompense for their labours much
after the manner of our modern street exhibitors: by that system of
"sending round the hat," which too many lookers-on nowadays consider
as an intimation to depart about their business, leaving their
entertainment unpaid for. The companies of players in the service of
any great personage were in the receipt of regular salaries, were
viewed as members of his household, and wore his livery. They probably
obtained, moreover, largess from the more liberally disposed
spectators of their exertions. But as the theatre became more and more
a source of public recreation, it was deemed necessary to establish
permanent stages, and a tariff of charges for admission to witness the
entertainments. For a long time the actors had been restricted to the
mansions of the nobility, and to the larger inn-yards of the city. In
1574, however, the Earl of Leicester, through his influence with Queen
Elizabeth, obtained for his company of players, among whom was
included James Burbadge, the father of the famous Shakespearean actor,
Richard Burbadge, a patent, under the Great Seal, empowering the
actors, "during the queen's pleasure, to use, exercise, and occupy the
art and faculty of playing tragedies, comedies, interludes, and stage
plays, as well for the recreation of the queen's subjects as for her
own solace and pleasure, within the city of London and its liberties,
and within any cities, towns, and boroughs throughout England." This
most important concession to the players was strenuously opposed by
the Lord Mayor and Corporation, who maintained that "the playing of
interludes and the resort to the same" were likely to provoke "the
infection of the plague," were "hurtfull in corruption of youth," were
"great wasting both of the time and thrift of many poor people," and
"great withdrawing of the people from publique prayer and from the
service of God." At last they proposed, as a compromise, that the
players of the queen, or of Lord Leicester--for these titles seem to
have been bestowed upon the actors indifferently--should be permitted
to perform within the city boundaries upon certain special conditions,
to the effect that their names and number should be notified to the
Lord Mayor and the Justices of Middlesex and Surrey, and that they
should not divide themselves into several companies; that they should
be content with playing in private houses, at weddings, &c., without
public assemblies, or "if more be thought good to be tolerated," that
they should not play openly till the whole deaths in London had been
for twenty days under fifty a week; that they should not play on the
Sabbath or on holy days until after evening prayer; and that no
playing should be in the dark, "nor continue any such time but as any
of the auditoire may returne to their dwellings in London before
sonne-set, or at least before it be dark." These severe restrictions
so far defeated the objects of the civic powers, that they led in
truth to the construction of three theatres beyond the Lord Mayor's
jurisdiction, but sufficiently near to its boundaries to occasion him
grave disquietude. About 1576 Burbadge built his theatre in the
Liberty of the Blackfriars--a precinct in which civic authority was at
any rate disputed. Within a year or so The Curtain and The Theatre,
both in Shoreditch, were also opened to the public. The Mayor and
Corporation persistently endeavoured to assert authority over these
establishments, but without much practical result. It may be added
that the Blackfriars Theatre was permanently closed in 1647, part of
the ground on which it stood, adjoining Apothecaries' Hall, still
bearing the name of Playhouse Yard; that The Theatre in Shoreditch was
abandoned about 1598 (it was probably a wooden erection, and in twenty
years might have become untenantable); and that The Curtain fell into
disuse at the beginning of the reign of Charles I.

The prices of admission to the theatres varied according to the
estimation in which they were held, and were raised on special
occasions. "Twopenny rooms," or galleries, were to be found at the
larger and more popular theatres. In Goffe's "Careless Shepherdess,"
1656, acted at the Salisbury Court Theatre, appear the lines:

    I will hasten to the money-box
    And take my shilling out again;
    I'll go to the Bull or Fortune, and there see
    A play for twopence and a jig to boot.

The money received was placed in a box, and there seems to have been
one person specially charged with this duty. Dekker, dedicating one of
his plays to his "friends and fellows," the queen's servants, wishes
them "a full audience and one honest doorkeeper." Even thus early the
absolute integrity of the attendants of the theatre would appear to
have been a subject of suspicion. "Penny galleries" are referred to by
some early writers, and from a passage in the "Gull's Horn Book,"
1609--"Your groundling and gallery commoner buys his sport for a
penny"--it is apparent that the charges for admission to the yard,
where the spectators stood, and to the galleries, where they sat on
benches, were the same. In Dekker's "Satiromastix," one of the
characters speaks scornfully of "penny bench theatres," where a
gentleman or an honest citizen "might sit with his squirrel by his
side cracking nuts." But according to the Induction to Ben Jonson's
"Bartholomew Fair," first acted in 1614, at the Hope, a small dirty
theatre on the Bankside, which had formerly been used for
bear-baiting, the prices there ranged from sixpence to half-a-crown.
"It shall be lawful for any man to judge his six pen'worth, his twelve
pen'worth, so to his eighteen pence, two shillings, half-a-crown, to
the value of his place; provided always his place get not above his
wit ... Marry, if he drop but sixpence at the door, and will censure a
crown's worth, it is thought there is no conscience or justice in
that." It is probable, however, that the dramatist was referring to
the prices charged at the first representation of his play. Sixpence
might then be the lowest admission; on other occasions, twopence, or
even one penny. The prologue to "Henry VIII." states:

            Those that come to see
    Only a show or two, and so agree,
    The play may pass; if they be still and willing,
    I'll undertake, may see away their shilling
    Richly in two short hours.

And there is evidence that in Shakespeare's time one shilling was the
price of admission to the best rooms or boxes. Sir Thomas Overbury
writes in his "Characters," published in 1614: "If he have but twelve
pence in his purse he will give it for the best room in a playhouse."
And the "Gull's Horn Book," 1609, counsels, "At a new play you take up
the twelvepenny room next the stage, because the lords and you may
seem to be hail-fellow well met!"

But it is plain that the tariff of admission was subject to frequent
alterations, and that as money became more abundant, the managers
gradually increased their charges. In the "Scornful Lady" "eighteen
pence" is referred to as though it were the highest price of admission
to the Blackfriars Theatre. Sir John Suckling writes, about the middle
of the seventeenth century:

    The sweat of learned Jonson's brain,
    And gentle Shakespeare's easier strain,
    A hackney-coach conveys you to,
    In spite of all that rain can do,
    And for your eighteenpence you sit,
    The lord and judge of all fresh wit.

It must always be doubtful, however, as to the precise portion of the
theatre these writers intended to designate. As Mr. Collier suggests,
the discordances between the authorities on this question arise,
probably, from the fact that "different prices were charged at
different theatres at different periods."

In our early theatres, the arrangements for receiving the money of the
playgoers were rather of a confused kind. There would seem to have
been several doors, one within the other, at any of which visitors
might tender their admission money. It was understood that he who,
disapproving the performance, withdrew after the termination of the
first act of the play, was entitled to receive back the amount he had
paid for his entrance. This system led to much brawling and fraud. The
matter was deemed important enough to justify royal intervention. An
order was issued in 1665, reciting that complaints had been made by
"our servants, the actors in the Royal Theatre," of divers persons
refusing to pay at the first door of the said theatre, thereby
obliging the doorkeepers to send after, solicit, and importune them
for their entrance-money, and stating it to be the royal will and
pleasure, for the prevention of these disorders, and so that such as
are employed by the said actors might have no opportunity of deceiving
them, that all persons thenceforward coming to the said theatre should
at the first door pay their entrance-money, which was to be restored
to them again in case they returned the same way before the end of the
act. The guards attending the theatre, and all others whom it might
concern, were charged to see that this order was obeyed, and to return
to the Lord Chamberlain the names of such persons as offered "any
violence contrary to this our pleasure."

Apparently the royal decree was not very implicitly obeyed by the
playgoers. At any rate we find, under date January 7th, 1668, the
following entry in Mr. Pepys's "Diary" bearing upon the matter: "To
the Nursery, but the house did not act to-day; and so I to the other
two playhouses, into the pit to gaze up and down, and there did by
this means for nothing see an act in the 'School of Compliments,' at
the Duke of York's house, and 'Henry IV.' at the King's House; but not
liking either of the plays, I took my coach again and home." At the
trial of Lord Mohun, in 1692, for the murder of Mountford, the actor,
John Rogers, one of the doorkeepers of the theatre, deposes that he
applied to his lordship and to Captain Hill, his companion, "for the
overplus of money for coming in, because they came out of the pit upon
the stage. They would not give it. Lord Mohun said if I brought any of
our masters he would slit their noses." It was the fashion for patrons
of the stage at this time to treat its professors with great scorn,
and often to view them with a kind of vindictive jealousy, "I see the
gallants do begin to be tired with the vanity and pride of the theatre
actors, who are indeed grown very proud and rich," noted Pepys, in
1661. In the second year of her reign, Queen Anne issued a decree "for
the better regulation of the theatres," the drama being at this period
the frequent subject of royal interference, and strictly commanded
that "no person of what quality soever should presume to go behind the
scenes, or come upon the stage, either before or during the acting of
any play; that no woman should be allowed, or presume to wear, a
vizard mask in either of the theatres; and that no person should come
into either house without paying the price established for their
respective places."

As the stage advanced more and more in public favour, the actors
ceased to depend for existence upon private patronage and found it
unnecessary to be included among the retinue and servants of the
great. After the Restoration patents were granted to Killigrew and
Davenant, and their companions were described as the servants of the
king and of the Duke of York respectively; but individual noblemen no
longer maintained and protected "players of interludes" for their own
private amusement. And now the court began to come to the drama
instead of requiring that the drama should be carried to the court.
Charles II. was probably the first English monarch who habitually
joined with the general audience and occupied a box at a public
theatre. In addition, he followed the example of preceding sovereigns,
and had plays frequently represented before him at Whitehall and other
royal residences. These performances took place at night, and were
brilliantly lighted with wax candles. With the fall of the Stuart
dynasty the court theatricals ceased almost altogether. Indeed, in
Charles's time there had been much decline in the dignity and
exclusiveness of these entertainments; admission seems to have been
obtainable upon payment at the doors, as though at a public theatre.
Evelyn writes in 1675: "I saw the Italian Scaramuccio act before the
king at Whitehall, people giving money to come in, which was very
scandalous, and never so before at court diversions. Having seen him
act in Italy many years past, I was not averse from seeing the most
excellent of that kind of folly."

It is to be observed that in Pepys's time, and long afterwards, the
prices of admission to the theatres were: Boxes, four shillings; pit,
two shillings and sixpence; first gallery, one shilling and sixpence;
and upper gallery, one shilling. It became customary to raise the
prices whenever great expenses had been incurred by the manager in the
production of a new play or of a pantomime. As the patent theatres
were enlarged or rebuilt, however, the higher rate of charges became
permanently established. After the famous O.P. riots the scale agreed
upon was: Boxes, seven shillings; pit, three shillings; galleries, two
shillings and one shilling; with half-price at nine o'clock. In later
times these charges have been considerably reduced. Half price has
been generally abolished, however, and many rows of the pit have been
converted into stalls at seven or ten shillings each. Altogether, it
may perhaps be held that in Western London, although theatrical
entertainments have been considerably cheapened, they still tax the
pockets of playgoers more severely than need be.

Country managers would seen to have ruled their scale of charges in
strict accordance with the means of their patrons; to have been
content, indeed, with anything they could get from the provincial
playgoers. Mr. Bernard, the actor, in his "Retrospections," makes
mention of a strolling manager, once famous in the north of England
and in Ireland, and known popularly as Jemmy Whitely, who, in
impoverished districts, was indifferent as to whether he received the
public support in money or "in kind." It is related of him that he
would take meat, fowl, vegetables, &c., and pass in the owner and
friends for as many admissions as the food was worth. Thus very often
on a Saturday his treasury resembled a butcher's warehouse, rather
than a banker's. At a village on the coast the inhabitants brought him
nothing but fish; but as the company could not subsist without its
concomitants of bread, potatoes, and spirits, a general appeal was
made to his stomach and sympathies, and some alteration in the terms
of admission required. Jemmy, accordingly, after admitting nineteen
persons one evening for a shad apiece, stopped the twentieth, and
said, "I beg your pardon, my darling, I am extremely sorry to refuse
you; but if we eat any more fish, by the powers, we shall all be
turned into mermaids!"

A famous provincial manager, or "manageress," was one Mrs. Baker,
concerning whom curious particulars are related in the "Memoirs of
Thomas Dibdin," and in the "Life of Grimaldi, the Clown." The lady
owned theatres at Canterbury, Rochester, Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells,
Faversham, Deal, and other places, but was understood to have
commenced her professional career in connection with a puppet-show, or
even the homely entertainment of Punch and Judy. But her industry,
energy, and enterprise were of an indomitable kind. She generally
lived in her theatres, and rising early to accomplish her marketing
and other household duties, she proceeded to take up her position in
the box-office, with the box-book open before her, and resting upon it
"a massy silver inkstand, which, with a superb pair of silver
trumpets, several cups, tankards, and candlesticks of the same pure
metal, it was her honest pride to say she had paid for with her own
hard earnings." While awaiting the visits of those desirous to book
their places for the evening, she arranged the programme of the
entertainments. Her education was far from complete, however, for
although she could read she was but an indifferent scribe. By the help
of the scissors, needle, thread, and a bundle of old playbills, she
achieved her purpose. She cut a play from one bill, an interlude from
another, a farce from a third, and sewing the slips neatly together
avoided the use of pen and ink. When the name of a new performer had
to be introduced she left a blank to be filled up by the first of her
actors she happened to encounter, presuming him to be equal to the use
of a pen. She sometimes beat the drum, or tolled the bell behind the
scenes, when the representation needed such embellishments, and
occasionally fulfilled the duties of prompter. In this respect it was
unavoidable that she should be now and then rather overtasked. On one
special evening she held the book during the performance of the old
farce of "Who's the Dupe?" The part of Gradus was undertaken by her
leading actor, one Gardner, and in the scene of Gradus's attempt to
impose upon the gentleman of the story, by affecting to speak Greek,
the performer's memory unfortunately failed him. He glanced
appealingly towards the prompt-side of the stage. Mrs. Baker was mute,
examining the play-book with a puzzled air. "Give me the word, madam,"
whispered the actor. "It's a hard word, Jem," the lady replied. "Then
give me the next." "That's harder." The performer was at a
stand-still; the situation was becoming desperate. "The next!" cried
Gardner, furiously. "Harder still!" answered the prompter, and then,
perplexed beyond bearing, she flung the book on the stage, and
exclaimed aloud: "There, now you have them all; take your choice."

The lady's usual station was in front of the house, however She was
her own money-taker, and to this fact has been ascribed the great good
fortune she enjoyed as a manager. "Now then, pit or box, pit or
gallery, box or pit!" she cried incessantly. "Pit! Pit!" half-a-dozen
voices might cry. "Then pay two shillings. Pass on, Tom Fool!" for so
on busy nights she invariably addressed her patrons of all classes.
To a woman who had to quit the theatre, owing to the cries of the
child she bore in her arms disturbing the audience, Mrs. Baker
observed, as she returned the entrance-money, "Foolish woman! Foolish
woman! Don't come another night till half-price, and then give your
baby some Dalby's Carminative." "I remember," writes Dibdin, "one very
crowded night patronised by a royal duke at Tunbridge Wells, when Mrs.
Baker was taking money for three doors at once, her anxiety and very
proper tact led her, while receiving cash from one customer, to keep
an eye in perspective on the next, to save time, as thus: 'Little
girl! get your money ready, while this gentleman pays. My lord! I'm
sure your lordship has silver. Let that little boy go in while I give
his lordship change. Shan't count after your ladyship. Here comes the
duke! Make haste! His royal highness will please to get his ticket
ready while my lady--now, sir! Now your royal highness!' 'Oh dear,
Mrs. Baker, I've left my ticket in another coat-pocket!' 'To be sure
you have! Take your royal highness's word! Let his royal highness
pass! His royal highness has left his ticket in his _other_
coat-pocket.' Great laughter followed, and I believe the rank and
fashion of the evening found more entertainment in the lobby than on
the stage."

On the occasion of Grimaldi's engagement, "for one night only," it was
found necessary to open the doors of the Maidstone Theatre at a very
early hour, to relieve the thoroughfare of the dense crowd which had
assembled. The house being quite full, Mrs. Baker locked up the box in
which the receipts of the evening had been deposited, and, going round
to the stage, directed the performances to be commenced forthwith,
remarking, reasonably enough, "that the house could but be full, and
being full to the ceiling now, they might just as well begin at once,
and have business over so much the sooner." Greatly to the
satisfaction of the audience, the representation accordingly began
without delay, and terminated shortly after nine o'clock.

It should be added that Mrs. Baker had been a dancer in early life,
and was long famed for the grace of her carriage and the elegance of
her curtsey. Occasionally she ventured upon the stage dressed in the
bonnet and shawl she had worn while receiving money and issuing
tickets at the door, and in audible tones announced the performances
arranged for future evenings, the audience enthusiastically welcoming
her appearance. A measure of her manifold talents was shared by other
members of her family. Her sister, Miss Wakelin, was principal comic
dancer to the theatre, occasional actress, wardrobe keeper, and
professed cook, being, rewarded for her various services by board and
lodging, a salary of £1 11s. 6d. per week, and a benefit in every town
Mrs. Baker visited, with other emoluments by way of perquisites. Two
of Mrs. Baker's daughters were also members of her company, and
divided between them the heroines of tragedy and comedy. One Miss
Baker subsequently became the wife of Mr. Dowton, the actor.

A settled distrust of the Bank of England was one of Mrs. Baker's most
marked peculiarities. At the close of the performance she resigned the
position she had occupied for some five hours as money-taker for pit,
boxes, and gallery, and retired to her chamber, carrying the receipts
of the evening in a large front pocket. This money she added to a
store contained in half-a-dozen large china punch-bowls, ranged upon
the top shelf of an old bureau. For many years she carried her savings
about with her from town to town, sometimes retaining upon her person
gold in rouleaux to a large amount. She is even said to have kept in
her pocket for seven years a note for £200. At length her wealth
became a positive embarrassment to her. She deposited sums in country
banks and in the hands of respectable tradesmen, at three per cent.,
sometimes without receiving any interest whatever, but merely with a
view to the safer custody of her resources. It was with exceeding
difficulty that she was eventually persuaded to become a fundholder.
She handed over her store of gold to her stockbroker with
extraordinary trepidation. It is satisfactory to be assured that at
last she accorded perfect confidence to the Old Lady in Threadneedle
Street, increased her investments from time to time, and learned to
find pleasure in visiting London half-yearly to receive her dividends.

Altogether Mrs. Baker appears to have been a thoroughly estimable
woman, cordially regarded by the considerate members of the theatrical
profession with whom she had dealings. While recording her
eccentricities, and conceding that occasionally her language was more
forcible and idiomatic than tasteful or refined, Dibdin hastens to
add that "she owned an excellent heart, with much of the appearance
and manners of a gentlewoman." Grimaldi was not less prompt in
expressing his complete satisfaction in regard to his engagements with
"the manageress." Dibdin wrote the epitaph inscribed above her grave
in the cathedral yard of Rochester. A few lines may be extracted, but
it must be said that the composition is of inferior quality:

                                   Alone, untaught,
    And self-assisted (save by Heaven), she sought
    To render each his own, and fairly save
    What might help others when she found a grave;
    By prudence taught life's troubled waves to stem,
    In death her memory shines, a rich, unpolished gem.

It is conceivable--so much may perhaps be added by way of concluding
note--that Mrs. Baker unconsciously posed as a model, and lent a
feature or two, when the portrait came to be painted of even a more
distinguished "manageress," whose theatre was a caravan, however,
whose company consisted of waxen effigies, and who bore the name



There is something to be written about the rise and fall of the pit:
its original humility, its possession for a while of great authority,
and its forfeiture, of late years, of power in the theatre. We all
know Shakespeare's opinion of "the groundlings," and how he held them
to be, "for the most part, capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb
shows and noise." The great dramatist's contemporaries entertained
similar views on this head. They are to be found speaking with supreme
contempt of the audience occupying the _yard_; describing them as
"fools," and "scarecrows," and "understanding, grounded men."

Our old theatres were of two classes, public and private. The
companies of the private theatres were more especially under the
protection of some royal or noble personage. The audiences they
attracted were usually of a superior class, and certain of these were
entitled to sit upon the stage during the representation. The
buildings, although of smaller dimensions than the public theatres
boasted, were arranged with more regard for the comfort of the
spectators. The boxes were enclosed and locked. There were _pits_
furnished with seats, in place of the _yards_, as they were called, of
the public theatres, in which the "groundlings" were compelled to
stand throughout the performance. And the whole house was roofed in
from the weather; whereas the public theatres were open to the sky,
excepting over the stage and boxes. Moreover, the performances at the
private theatres were presented by candle or torch light. Probably it
was held that the effects of the stage were enhanced by their being
artificially illuminated, for in these times, at both public and
private theatres, the entertainments commenced early in the afternoon,
and generally concluded before sunset, or, at any rate, before dark.

As patience and endurance are more easy to the man who sits than to
the standing spectator, it came to be understood that a livelier kind
of entertainment must be provided for the "groundlings" of the public
theatres than there was need to present to the seated pit of the
private playhouses. The "fools of the yard" were charged with
requiring "the horrid noise of target-fight," "cutler's work," and
vulgar and boisterous exhibitions generally. These early patrons of
the more practical parts of the drama are entitled to be forbearingly
judged, however. Their comfort was little studied, and it is not
surprising, under the circumstances, that they should have favoured a
brisk and vivacious class of representations. The tedious playwright
did not merely oppress their minds; he made them remember how weary
were their legs.

But it is probable that the tastes thus generated were maintained long
after the necessity for their existence had departed, and that, even
when seats were permitted them, the "groundlings" still held by their
old forms of amusement, demanding dramas of liveliness, incident, and
action, and greatly preferring spectacle to speeches. From the
philosophical point of view the pit had acquired a bad name, and
couldn't or wouldn't get quit of it. Still it is by no means clear
that the sentiments ascribed to the pit were not those of the audience

Nevertheless the pit was improving in character. Gradually it boasted
a strong critical leaven; it became the recognised resort of the more
enlightened playgoers. Dryden in his prologues and epilogues often
addresses the pit, as containing notably the judges of plays and the
more learned of the audience. "The pit," says Swift, in the
introduction to his "Tale of a Tub," "is sunk below the stage, that
whatever of weighty matter shall be delivered thence, whether it be
lead or gold, may fall plump into the jaws of certain critics, as I
think they are called, which stand ready open to devour them." "Your
bucks of the pit," says an old occasional address of later date,
ascribed to Garrick, but on insufficient evidence:

    Your bucks of the pit are miracles of learning,
    Who point out faults to show their own discerning;
    And critic-like bestriding martyred sense,
    Proclaim their genius and vast consequence.

There were now critics by profession, who duly printed and published
their criticisms. The awful Churchill's favourite seat was in the
front row of the pit, next the orchestra. "In this place he thought he
could best discern the real workings of the passions in the actors, or
what they substituted instead of them," says poor Tom Davies, whose
dread of the critic was extreme. "During the run of 'Cymbeline,'" he
wrote apologetically to Garrick, his manager, "I had the misfortune to
disconcert you in one scene, for which I did immediately beg your
pardon; and did attribute it to my accidentally seeing Mr. Churchill
in the pit; with great truth, it rendered me confused and unmindful of
my business." Garrick had himself felt oppressed by the gloomy
presence of Churchill, and learnt to read discontent in the critic's
lowering brows. "My love to Churchill," he writes to Colman; "his
being sick of Richard was perceived about the house."

That Churchill was a critic of formidable aspect, the portrait he
limned of himself in his "Independence" amply demonstrates:

    Vast were his bones, his muscles twisted strong,
    His face was short, but broader than 'twas long;
    His features though by nature they were large,
    Contentment had contrived to overcharge
    And bury meaning, save that we might spy
    Sense low'ring on the pent-house of his eye;
    His arms were two twin oaks, his legs so stout
    That they might bear a mansion-house about;
    Nor were they--look but at his body there--
    Designed by fate a much less weight to bear.
    O'er a brown cassock which had once been black,
    Which hung in tatters on his brawny back,
    A sight most strange and awkward to behold,
    He threw a covering of blue and gold. &c. &c.

This was not the kind of man to be contemptuously regarded or
indiscreetly attacked. Foote ventured to designate him "the clumsy
curate of Clapham," but prudently suppressed a more elaborate lampoon
he had prepared. Murphy launched an ode more vehement than decent in
its terms. Churchill good-humouredly acknowledged the justice of the
satire; he had said, perhaps, all he cared to say to the detriment of
Murphy, and was content with this proof that his shafts had reached
their mark. Murphy confirms Davies's account of Churchill's seat in
the theatre:

    No more your bard shall sit
    In foremost row before the astonished pit,
    And grin dislike, and kiss the spike,
    And twist his mouth and roll his head awry,
    The arch-absurd quick glancing from his eye.

Charles Lamb was a faithful patron of the pit. In his early days there
had been such things as "pit orders." "Beshrew the uncomfortable
manager who abolished them!" he exclaims. Hazlitt greatly preferred
the pit to the boxes. Not simply because the fierceness of his
democratic sentiments induced in him a scorn of the visitors to the
boxes, as wrapped up in themselves, fortified against impressions,
weaned from all superstitious belief in dramatic illusions, taking so
little interest in all that was interesting, disinclined to discompose
their cravats or their muscles, "except when some gesticulation of Mr.
Kean, or some expression of an author two hundred years old, violated
the decorum of fashionable indifference." These were good reasons for
his objection to the boxes. But he preferred the pit, in truth,
because he could there see and hear so very much better. "We saw Mr.
Kean's Sir Giles Overreach on Friday night from the boxes," he writes
in 1816, "and are not surprised at the incredulity as to this great
actor's powers entertained by those persons who have only seen him
from that elevated sphere. We do not hesitate to say that those who
have only seen him at that distance have not seen him at all. The
expression of his face is quite lost, and only the harsh and grating
tones of his voice produce their full effect on the ear. The same
recurring sounds, by dint of repetition, fasten on the attention,
while the varieties and finer modulations are lost in their passage
over the pit. All you discover is an abstraction of his defects, both
of person, voice, and manner. He appears to be a little man in a great
passion," &c.

But the pit was not famous merely as the resort of critics. The
"groundlings" had given place to people of fashion and social
distinction. Mr. Leigh Hunt notes that the pit even of Charles II.'s
time, although now and then the scene of violent scuffles and brawls,
due in great part to the general wearing of swords, was wont to
contain as good company as the pit of the Opera House five-and-twenty
years ago. A reference to Pepys's "Diary" justifies this opinion.
"Among the rest here the Duke of Buckingham to-day openly sat in the
pit," records Pepys, "and there I found him with my Lord Buckhurst,
and Sedley, and Etheridge the poet." Yet it would seem that already
the visitors to the pit had declined somewhat in quality. Pepys, like
John Gilpin's spouse, had a frugal mind, however bent on pleasure. He
relates, in 1667, with some sense of injury, how once, there being no
room in the pit, he was forced to pay four shillings and go into one
of the upper boxes, "which is the first time I ever sat in a box in my

One does not now look to find members of the administration or cabinet
ministers occupying seats in the pit. Yet the "Journals of the Right
Honourable William Windham," some time Chief Secretary to the Lord
Lieutenant of Ireland, and afterwards Colonial Secretary, tell of his
frequent visits to the pit of Covent Garden. Nor does he "drop into"
the theatre, after dining at his club, as even a bachelor of fashion
might do without exciting surprise. Playgoing is not an idle matter to
him. And he is accompanied by ladies of distinction, his relatives and
others. "Went about half-past five to the pit," he records; "sat by
Miss Kemble, Steevens, Mrs. Burke, and Miss Palmer," the lady last
named being the niece of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who afterwards married
Lord Inchiquin. "Went in the evening to the pit with Mrs. Lukin" (the
wife of his half-brother). "After the play, went with Miss Kemble to
Mrs. Siddons's dressing-room: met Sheridan there, with whom I sat in
the waiting room, and who pressed me to sup at his house with Fox and
G. North." Assuredly "the play," not less than the pit, was more
highly regarded in Windham's time than nowadays.

Though apart from our present topic, it is worth noting that Windham
may claim to have anticipated Monsieur Gambetta as a statesman
voyaging in a balloon. Ballooning was a hobby of Windham's. He was a
regular attendant of ascents, and inspected curiously the early aerial
machines of Blanchard and Lunardi. Something surprised at his own
temerity, he travelled the air himself, rose in a balloon--probably
from Vauxhall--crossed the river at Tilbury, and descended in safety
after losing his hat. He regretted that the wind had not been
favourable for his crossing the Channel. "Certainly," he writes, "the
experiences I have had on this occasion will warrant a degree of
confidence more than I have ever hitherto indulged. I would not wish a
degree of confidence more than I enjoyed at every moment of the time."

To return to the pit for a concluding note or two. Audiences had come
to agree with Hazlitt, that "it was unpleasant to see a play from the
boxes," that the pit was far preferable. Gradually the managers--sound
sleepers as a rule--awakened to this view of the situation, and
proceeded accordingly. They seized upon the best seats in the pit, and
converted them into stalls, charging for admission to these a higher
price than they had ever levied in regard to the boxes. Stalls were
first introduced at the Opera House in the Haymarket in the year 1829.
Dissatisfaction was openly expressed, but although the overture was
hissed--the opera being Rossini's "La Donna del Lago"--no serious
disturbance arose. There had been a decline in the public spirit of
playgoers. The generation that delighted in the great O.P. riot had
pretty well passed away. Such another excitement was not possible;
energy and enthusiasm on such a subject seemed to have been exhausted
for ever by that supreme effort. So the audience paid the increased
price or stayed away from the theatre--for staying away from the
theatre could now be calmly viewed as a reasonable alternative. "The
play" was no more what once it had been, a sort of necessary of life.
The example of the Opera manager was presently followed by all other
theatrical establishments, and high-priced stalls became the rule
everywhere. The pit lost its old influence--was, so to say,
disfranchised. It was as one of the old Cinque Ports which the
departing sea and the ever indrifting sand have left high and dry,
unapproachable by water, a port only in name. It was divided and
conquered. The most applauded toast at the public banquet of the O.P.
rioters--"The ancient and indisputable rights of the pit"--will never
more be proposed.



Of old the proprietors of theatres acted towards their patrons upon
the principle of "first come, first served." If you desired a good
place at the playhouse it was indispensably necessary to go early and
to be in time: to secure your seat by bodily occupation of it.
Box-offices, at which places might be engaged a fortnight in advance
of the performance, were as yet unknown. The only way, therefore, by
which people of quality and fashion could obtain seats without the
trouble of attending at the opening of the doors for that purpose, was
by sending on their servants beforehand to occupy places until such
time as it should be convenient for the masters and mistresses to
present themselves at the theatre. When Garrick took his benefit at
Drury Lane in 1744, the play--"Hamlet"--was to begin at six o'clock,
and in the bills of the day ladies were requested _to send their
servants by three o'clock._ It was further announced that by
particular desire five rows of the pit would be railed into boxes, and
that servants would be permitted to keep places on the stage, which,
for the better accommodation of the ladies, would be railed into

The custom of sending servants early to the theatre to secure seats in
this way was, no doubt, a very old one; and, of course, at the
conclusion of the entertainment they were compelled to be again in
attendance with the carriages and chairs of their employers.
Meanwhile, they assembled in the lobbies and precincts of the
playhouse in great numbers, and considerable noise and confusion thus
ensued. In the prologue to Carlell's tragi-comedy of "Arviragus,"
1672, Dryden writes, begging the public to support rather the English
than the French performers who were visiting London:

    And therefore, Messieurs, if you'll do us grace.
    Send lacqueys early to preserve your place;

and in one of his epilogues he makes mention of the nuisance
occasioned by the noisy crowd of servants disturbing the performance:

    Then for your lacqueys and your train beside,
    By whate'er name or title dignified,
    They roar so loud, you'd think behind the stairs,
    Tom Dove and all the brotherhood of bears;
    They've grown a nuisance beyond all disasters,
    We've none so great but their unpaying masters.
    We beg you, sirs, to beg your men that they
    Would please to give us leave to hear the play.

"Tom Dove," it may be noted, was a "bear-ward," or proprietor of
bears, of some fame; his name is frequently mentioned in the light
literature of the period.

At this time the servants were admitted gratis to the upper gallery of
the theatre on the conclusion of the fourth act of the play of the
evening. In 1697, however, Rich, the manager of the theatre in
Lincoln's Inn Fields, placed his gallery at their disposal, without
charge, during the whole of the evening. Cibber speaks of this
proceeding on the part of Rich as the lowest expedient to ingratiate
his company in public favour. Alarmed by the preference evinced by the
town for the rival theatre in Drury Lane, Rich conceived that this new
privilege would incline the servants to give his house "a good word in
the respective families they belonged to," and, further, that it would
greatly increase the applause awarded to his performances. In this
respect his plan seems to have succeeded very well.

Cibber relates that "it often thundered from the full gallery above,
while the thin pit and boxes below were in the utmost serenity." He
proceeds to add, however, that the privilege, which from custom
ripened into right, became the most disgraceful nuisance that ever
depreciated the theatre. "How often," he exclaims, "have the most
polite audiences in the most affecting scenes of the best plays been
disturbed and insulted by the noise and clamour of these savage

The example set by Rich seems to have been soon followed by other
managers. For many years the right of the footmen to occupy the upper
gallery without payment was unchallenged. In 1737, however, Mr.
Fleetwood, manager of Drury Lane Theatre, announced his determination
to put an end to a privilege which it was generally felt had grown
into a serious nuisance. A threatening letter was sent to him, which
he answered by offering a reward of fifty guineas for the discovery of
its author or authors. The letter is given in full in Malcolm's
"Anecdotes of London," 1810:

     "SIR,--We are willing to admonish you before we attempt our
     design; and, provided you will use us civil and admit us into
     your gallery, which is our property according to Formalities;
     and if you think proper to come to a composition this way,
     you'll hear no further; and if not, our intention is to join a
     body _incognito_, and reduce the playhouse to the ground.--We
     are, INDEMNIFIED."

A riot of an alarming nature followed. The footmen, denied admission
to their own gallery, as they regarded it, assembled in a body of
three hundred, and, armed with offensive weapons, broke into the
theatre, and, taking forcible possession of the stage, wounded some
twenty-five persons who had opposed their entrance. Great confusion
prevailed. The Prince and Princess of Wales and other members of the
Royal Family were in the theatre at the time. Colonel Deveil, justice
of the peace, who was also present, after attempting in vain to read
the Riot Act ("he might as well have read Caesar's 'Commentaries,'"
observed a facetious critic), caused some of the ringleaders to be
arrested, and thirty of them were sent to Newgate. While in prison,
they were supported by the subscriptions of their sympathising
brethren. Meanwhile, anonymous letters were thrown down the areas of
people of fashion, denouncing vengeance against all who attempted to
deprive the footmen of their liberty and property. A further attack
upon the theatre was expected. For several nights a detachment of
fifty soldiers protected the building and its approaches; but the
public peace was not further disturbed. The footmen were compelled to
acknowledge themselves defeated. They were admitted _gratis_ to the
upper gallery no more.

Arnot's "History of Edinburgh," 1789, contains an account of a
servants' riot in the theatre of that city on the occasion of the
second performance of the Rev. Mr. Townley's farce of "High Life Below
Stairs," originally played at Drury Lane in 1759. The footmen, highly
offended at the representation of a farce reflecting on their
fraternity, resolved to prevent its repetition. In Edinburgh the
footmen's gallery still existed. "That servants might not be kept
waiting in the cold, nor induced to tipple in the adjacent ale-houses
while they waited for their masters, the humanity of the gentry had
provided that the upper gallery should afford gratis admission to the
servants of such persons as were attending the theatre." On the second
night of the performance of the farce, Mr. Love, one of the managers
of the theatre, came upon the stage, and read a letter he had
received, containing the most violent threatenings both against the
actors and the house, in case "High Life Below Stairs" should be
represented, and declaring "that above seventy people had agreed to
sacrifice fame, honour, and profit to prevent it." In spite of this
menace, however, the managers ordered that the performance should
proceed. Immediately a storm of disapprobation arose in the footmen's
gallery. The noise continued, notwithstanding the urgent orders
addressed to the servants to be quiet. Many of the gentlemen
recognised among this unruly crew their individual servants. When
these would not submit to authority, their masters, assisted by others
in the house, went up to the gallery; but it was not until after a
battle, in which the servants were fairly overpowered and thrust out
of the house, that quietness was restored.

After this disturbance, the servants were not only deprived of the
freedom of the playhouse, but the custom of giving them "vails," which
had theretofore universally prevailed in Scotland, was abolished.
"Nothing," writes Mr. Arnot, "can tend more to make servants
rapacious, insolent, and ungrateful, than allowing them to display
their address in extracting money from the visitors of their lord."
After the riot in the footmen's gallery, the gentlemen of the county
of Aberdeen resolved neither to give, nor to allow their servants to
receive, any money from their visitors under the name of drink-money,
card-money, &c., and instead, augmented their wages. This example was
"followed by the gentlemen of the county of Edinburgh, by the Faculty
of Advocates, and other respectable public bodies; and the practice
was utterly exploded over all Scotland."

It was not only while they occupied the gallery, however, that the
footmen contrived to give offence to the audience. Their conduct while
they kept places for their employers in the better portions of the
house, appears to have been equally objectionable. In the _Weekly
Register_ for March 25th, 1732, it is remarked: "The theatre should be
esteemed the centre of politeness and good manners, yet numbers of
them [the footmen] every evening are lolling over the boxes, while
they keep places for their masters, with their hats on; play over
their airs, take snuff, laugh aloud, adjust their cocks'-combs, or
hold dialogues with their brethren from one side of the house to the
other." The fault was not wholly with the footmen, however: their
masters and mistresses were in duty bound to come earlier to the
theatre and take possession of the places retained for them. But it
was the fashion to be late: to enter the theatre noisily, when the
play was half over, and even then to pay little attention to the
players. In Fielding's farce of "Miss Lucy in Town," produced in 1742,
when the country-bred wife inquires of Mrs. Tawdry concerning the
behaviour of the London fine ladies at the playhouses, she is
answered: "Why, if they can they take a stage-box, where they let the
footman sit the two first acts to show his livery; then they come in
to show themselves--spread their fans upon the spikes, make curtsies
to their acquaintance, and then talk and laugh as loud as they are



As the performances of the Elizabethan theatres commenced at three
o'clock in the afternoon, and the public theatres of the period were
open to the sky (except over the stage and galleries), much artificial
lighting could not, as a rule, have been requisite. Malone, in his
account of the English stage prefixed to his edition of "Shakespeare,"
describes the stage as formerly lighted by means of two large branches
"of a form similar to those now hung in churches." The pattern of
these branches may be seen in the frontispiece to "Kirkman's
Collection of Drolls," printed in 1672, representing a view of a
theatrical booth. In time, however, it was discovered that the
branches obstructed the view of the spectators, and were otherwise
incommodious; they then gave place to small circular wooden frames
furnished with candles, eight of which were hung on the stage, four on
either side. The frontispiece to the Dublin edition of Chetwood's
"History of the Stage," 1749, exhibits the stage lighted by hoops of
candles in this way, suspended from the proscenium, and with no
foot-lights between the actors and the musicians in the orchestra. It
is probable that these candles were of wax or tallow, accordingly as
the funds of the theatrical manager permitted. Mr. Pepys, in his
"Diary," February 12th, 1667, chronicles a conversation with
Killigrew, the manager of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. "He tells
me that the stage is now, by his pains, a thousand times better and
more glorious than ever heretofore. _Now, wax candles and many of
them; then, not above 3 lb. of tallow._ Now, all things civil: no
rudeness anywhere; then, as in a bear-garden," &c. The body of the
house, according to Malone, was formerly lighted "by cressets or large
open lanthorns of nearly the same size with those which are fixed in
the poop of a ship."

The use of candles involved the employment of candle-snuffers, who
came on at certain pauses in the performance to tend and rectify the
lighting of the stage. Goldsmith's Strolling Player narrates how he
commenced his theatrical career in this humble capacity: "I snuffed
the candles; and let me tell you, that without a candle-snuffer the
piece would lose half its embellishment." The illness of one of the
actors necessitated the pressing of the candle-snuffer into the
company of players. "I learnt my part," he continues, "with
astonishing rapidity, and bade adieu to snuffing candles ever after. I
found that nature had designed me for more noble employment, and I was
resolved to take her when in the humour." But the duties of a
candle-snuffer, if not very honourable, were somewhat arduous. It was
the custom of the audience, especially among those frequenting the
galleries, to regard him as a butt, with whom to amuse themselves
during the pauses between the acts. Something of this habit is yet
extant. Even nowadays the appearance of a servant on the stage for the
necessary purposes of the performance--to carry chairs on or off, to
spread or remove a carpet, &c.--is frequently the signal for cries of
derision from the gallery. Of old the audience proceeded to greater
extremities--even to hurling missiles of various kinds at the
unfortunate candle-snuffer. In Foote's comedy of "The Minor," Shift,
one of the characters, describes the changing scenes of his life. From
a linkboy outside a travelling theatre he was promoted to employment
within. "I did the honours of the barn," he says, "by sweeping the
stage and clipping the candles. Here my skill and address were so
conspicuous that it procured me the same office the ensuing winter, at
Drury Lane, where I acquired intrepidity, the crown of all my
virtues.... For I think, sir, he that dares stand the shot of the
gallery, in lighting, snuffing, and sweeping, the first night of a new
play, may bid defiance to the pillory with all its customary
compliments.... But an unlucky crab-apple applied to my right eye by a
patriot gingerbread baker from the Borough, who would not suffer
three dancers from Switzerland because he hated the French, forced me
to a precipitate retreat."

Mr. Richard Jenkins, in his "Memoirs of the Bristol Stage," published
in 1826, relates how one Winstone, a comic actor, who sometimes
essayed tragical characters, appeared upon a special occasion as
Richard III. He played his part so energetically, and flourished his
sword to such good purpose while demanding "A horse! a horse!" in the
fifth act that "the weapon coming in contact with a rope by which one
of the hoops of tallow candles was suspended, the blazing circle (not
the golden one he had looked for) fell round his neck and lodged
there, greatly to his own discomfiture and to the amusement of the
audience." The amazed Catesby of the evening, instead of helping his
sovereign to a steed, is said to have been sufficiently occupied with
extricating him from his embarrassing situation. Winstone, indeed,
seems to have enjoyed some fame on the score of eccentricity. He took
leave of the stage in 1784, being then about eighty years of age. But
he was at this time so afflicted with deafness that it was impossible
for him to "catch the word" from the prompter at the side of the
stage. To assist him, therefore, in the delivery of his farewell
address, one of the performers, provided with a copy of the speech,
was stationed behind the speaker and instructed to keep moving forward
and backward as he did, like his shadow. The effect must certainly
have been whimsical. Winstone had been a pupil of Quin's, and had
played Downright to Garrick's Kitely in "Every Man in his Humour," at
Drury Lane, in 1751. He was a constant attendant at the Exchange
Coffee House, the established resort of the Bristol merchants. "He had
the good fortune at one time to win a considerable prize in the
lottery, and often looked in at the insurance offices, where he
sometimes received premiums as an underwriter of ships and cargoes."
In consequence, he obtained much patronage, and always inserted at the
head of the playbills of his benefit, "By desire of several eminent

Garrick, in 1765, after his return from Italy (according to Jackson's
"History of the Scottish Stage"), introduced various improvements in
the theatre, and amongst them, the employment of a row of foot-lights
in lieu of the old circular chandeliers over head. The labours of the
candle-snuffers in front of the curtain were probably brought to a
conclusion soon afterwards, when oil-lamps took the place of candles.
The snuffer then found his occupation gone. Probably the trimming of
the lamps became his next duty; and then, as time went on, he
developed into a "gasman," that most indispensable attendant of the
modern theatre.

Thackeray, in his novel of "The Virginians," has some very apposite
remarks upon the limited state of illumination in which our ancestors
were content to dwell. "In speaking of the past," he writes, "I think
the night-life of society a hundred years since was rather a _dark_
life. There was not one wax-candle for ten which we now see in a
ladies' drawing-room: let alone gas and the wondrous new illuminations
of clubs. Horrible guttering tallow smoked and stunk in passages. The
candle-snuffer was a notorious officer in the theatre. See Hogarth's
pictures: how dark they are, and how his feasts are, as it were,
begrimed with tallow! In 'Mariage à la Mode,' in Lord Viscount
Squanderfield's grand saloons, where he and his wife are sitting
yawning before the horror-stricken steward when their party is over,
there are but eight candles--one on each table and half-a-dozen in a
brass chandelier. If Jack Briefless convoked his friends to oysters
and beer in his chambers, Pump Court, he would have twice as many. Let
us comfort ourselves by thinking that Louis Quatorze in all his glory
held his revels in the dark, and bless Mr. Price and other Luciferous
benefactors of mankind for abolishing the abominable mutton of our

The first gas-lamp appeared in London in the year 1809, Pall Mall
being the first and for some years the only street so illuminated.
Gradually, however, the new mode of lighting made way, and stole from
the streets into manufactories and public buildings, and, finally,
into private houses. The progress was not very rapid however; for we
find that gas was not introduced into the Mall of St. James's Park
until the year 1822. It is difficult to fix the exact date when gas
foot-lights appeared upon the stage. But in the year 1828 an explosion
took place in Covent Garden Theatre by which two men lost their lives.
Great alarm was excited. The public were afraid to re-enter the
theatre. The management published an address in which it was stated
that the gas-fittings would be entirely removed from the interior of
the house, and safer methods of illumination resorted to. In order to
effect the necessary alterations the theatre was closed for a
fortnight, during which the Covent Garden company appeared at the
English Opera House, or Lyceum Theatre, and an address was issued on
behalf of the widows of the men who had been killed by the explosion.
In due time, however, the world grew bolder on the subject, and gas
reappeared upon the scene. Some theatres, however (being probably
restricted by the conditions of their leases), were very tardy in
adopting the new system of lighting. Mr. Benjamin Webster, in his
speech in the year 1853, upon his resigning the management of the
Haymarket Theatre after a tenancy of fifteen years, mentions, among
the improvements he had originated during that period, that he had
"introduced gas for the fee of £500 a-year, and the presentation of
the centre chandelier to the proprietors."

The employment of gas-lights in theatres was strenuously objected to
by many people. In the year 1829 a medical gentleman, writing from
Bolton Row, and signing himself "Chiro-Medicus," addressed to a public
journal a remonstrance on the subject. He had met with several fatal
cases of apoplexy which had occurred in the theatres, or a few hours
after leaving them, and he had been led, with some success, as he
alleged, to investigate the cause. It appeared to him "that the strong
vivid light evolved from the numerous gas-lamps on the stage so
powerfully stimulated the brain through the medium of the optic
nerves, as to occasion a preternatural determination of blood to the
head, capable of producing headache or giddiness: and if the subject
should at the time laugh heartily, the additional influx of blood
which takes place, may rupture a vessel, the consequence of which will
be, from the effusion of blood within the substance of the brain, or
on its surface, fatal apoplexy." From inquiries he had made among his
professional brethren who had been many years in practice in the
Metropolis, it appeared to him that the votaries of the drama were by
no means so subject to apoplexy or nervous headache _before_ the
adoption of gas-lights. Some of his medical friends were of opinion
that the air of the theatre was very considerably deteriorated by the
combustion of gas, and that the consumption of oxygen, and the new
products, and the escape of hydrogen, occasioned congestion of the
vessels of the head. He thought it probable that this deterioration
of the air might act in conjunction with the vivid light in producing
either apoplexy or nervous headache. He found, moreover, that the
actors were subject not only to headache, but also to weakness of
sight and attacks of giddiness, from the action of the powerfully
vivid light evolved from the combustion of gas; and he noted that the
pupils of the eyes of all actors or actresses, who had been two or
three years on the stage, were much dilated; though this, he thought,
might be attributable to the injurious pigments they employed to
heighten their complexions; common rouge containing either red oxide
of lead or the sulphuret of mercury, and white paint being often
composed of carbonate of lead, all of which were capable of acting
detrimentally upon the optic nerve.

The statements of "Chiro-Medicus" may seem somewhat overcharged; yet,
after allowance has been made for that exaggerated way of putting the
case which seems habitual to "the faculty" when it takes up with a new
theory, a sufficient residuum of fact remains to justify many of the
doctor's remarks. That a headache too often follows hard upon a
dramatic entertainment must be tolerably plain to anyone who has ever
sat in a theatre. Surely a better state of things must have existed a
century ago, when the grandsires and great-grandsires of us Londoners
were in the habit of frequenting the theatres night after night,
almost as punctually as they ate their dinner or sipped their claret
or their punch. To look in at Drury Lane or Covent Garden, if only to
witness an act or two of the tragedy or comedy of the evening, was a
sort of duty with the town gentlemen, wits, and Templars, a hundred
years back, when George III. was king. But gas had not then superseded
wax, and tallow, and oil.

Beyond increasing the _quantity_ of light, stage management has done
little since Garrick's introduction of foot-lights, or "floats," as
they are technically termed, in the way of satisfactorily adjusting
the illumination of the stage. The light still comes from the wrong
place: from below instead of, naturally, from above. In 1863, Mr.
Fechter, at the Lyceum, sank the _floats_ below the surface of the
stage, so that they should not intercept the view of the spectator;
and his example has been followed by other managers; and of late
years, owing to accidents having occurred to the dresses of the
dancers when they approached too near to the foot-lights, these have
been carefully fenced and guarded with wire screens and metal bars.
Moreover, the dresses of the performers have been much shortened. But
the obvious improvement required still remains to be effected.

George Colman the younger, in his "Random Records," describes an
amateur dramatic performance in the year 1780, at Wynnstay, in North
Wales, the seat of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. The theatre had formerly
been the kitchen of the mansion--a large, long, rather low-pitched
room. One advantage of these characteristics, according to Mr. Colman,
was the fact that the foot-lights, or _floats_, could be dispensed
with: the stage was lighted by a row of lamps affixed to a large beam
or arch above the heads of the performers--"on that side of the arch
nearest to the stage, so that the audience did not see the lamps,
which cast a strong vertical light upon the actors. This," he writes,
"is as we receive light from nature; whereas the operation of the
_float_ is exactly upon a reversed principle, and throws all the
shades of the actor's countenance the wrong way." This defect,
however, appeared to our author to be irremediable; for, as he argues,
"if a beam to hold lamps as at Wynnstay were placed over the
proscenium at Drury Lane or Covent Garden Theatre, the goddesses in
the upper tiers of boxes, and the two and one shilling gods in the
galleries, would be completely intercepted from a view of the stage."
Still, Mr. Colman was not without hope that "in this age of
improvement, while theatres are springing up like mushrooms, some
ingenious architect may hit upon a remedy. At all events," he
concludes, "it is a grand desideratum."

Colman was writing in the year 1830. It is rather curious to find him
describing theatres as "springing up like mushrooms," when it is
considered that, notwithstanding the enormous extension of London, and
the vast increase of its population, but one or two theatres were
added to it for some thirty years. Meanwhile, the "ingenious
architect," to whom he looked hopefully to amend the lighting of the
stage, has not yet appeared. But then, one does not meet ingenious
architects every day.

A concluding note may be added touching the difficulties that may
ensue from the system of lighting the theatres by means of gas.

On December 3rd, 1872, there occurred the strike of some 2400 stokers;
and, as a consequence, the West-end of London was involved in complete
darkness, while in the City the supply of gas was limited to a very
few streets. Upon the theatres this deprivation fell heavily. The
performances were given up in despair at some houses, and carried on
at others in a very restricted manner, by suddenly calling into
requisition the twilight of tallow-candles and oil-lamps. The
following advertisements, among many others of like tenor, appearing
in _The Times_ of the 4th December, are illustrative of the situation
of affairs:

     SPECIAL NOTICE.--COURT THEATRE.--This theatre, from its
     situation, is in no way affected by the Gas Strike, and will be
     open every evening, and brilliantly illuminated.

     ST. JAMES'S THEATRE.--The management having received no notice
     that, in consequence of the strike, the supply of gas would be
     discontinued, found at the last moment no light could be
     obtained, and were compelled to inform the crowds at the door
     that there would be no performance. _All Tickets_ issued last
     night will be available this evening.

     GAS.--GAIETY.--SPECIAL NOTICE.--Arrangements (if necessary) have
     been made to light this Theatre with lime-lights and oil.



Among the earlier emotions of the youthful playgoer, whose enthusiasm
for dramatic representations is generally of a very fervid and
uncompromising kind, must be recognised his pity for the money-taker,
forbidden by the cares of office to witness a performance, and his
envy of the musicians, so advantageously stationed for the incessant
enjoyment of the delights of the theatre. But he perceives, with
regretful wonder, that these gentlemen are habitually negligent of
their opportunities, and fail to appreciate the peculiar happiness of
their position; that they are apt, indeed, their services not being
immediately required, to abandon their instruments, and quietly to
steal away through the cramped doorway that admits to the mysterious
regions beneath the stage. He is grieved to note that for them, at any
rate, the play is _not_ "the thing." One or two may remain--the
performer on the drum, I have observed, is often very faithful in this
respect, though I have failed to discover any special reason why a
love of histrionic efforts should be generated by his professional
occupation--but the majority of the orchestra clearly manifest an
almost indecent alacrity in avoiding all contemplation of the displays
on the other side of the foot-lights. They are but playgoers on
compulsion. They even seem sometimes, when they retain their seats, to
prefer gazing at the audience, rather than at the actors, and thus to
advertise their apathy in the matter. And I have not heard that the
parsimonious manager, who proposed to reduce the salaries of his
musicians on the ground that they every night enjoyed admission to the
best seats, for which they paid nothing, "even when stars were
performing," ever succeeded in convincing his band of the justice of
his arguments.

The juvenile patron of the drama will, of course, in due time become
less absorbed in his own view of the situation, and learn that just as
one man's meat is another man's poison, so the pleasures of some are
the pains of others. He will cease to search the faces of the
orchestra for any evidence of "pride of place," or enjoyment of
performances they witness, not as volunteers, but as pressed men. He
will understand that they are at work, and are influenced by a natural
anxiety to escape from work as soon as may be. So, the overture ended,
they vanish, and leave the actors to do their best or their worst, as
the case may be. But our young friend's sentiments are not peculiar to
himself--have been often shared, indeed, by very experienced persons.
We have heard of comic singers and travelling entertainment givers who
have greatly resented the air of indifference of their musical
accompanist. They have required of him that he should feel amused, or
affect to feel amused, by their efforts. He has had to supplement his
skill as a musician by his readiness as an actor. It has been thought
desirable that the audience should be enabled to exclaim: "The great
So-and-So _must_ be funny! Why, see, the man at the piano, who plays
for him every night, who has, of course, seen his performances scores
and scores of times, even _he_ can't help laughing, the great
So-and-So is so funny." The audience, thus convinced, find themselves,
no doubt, very highly amused. Garrick himself appears, on one occasion
at any rate, to have been much enraged at the indifference of a
member of his band. Cervetto, the violoncello player, once ventured to
yawn noisily and portentously while the great actor was delivering an
address to the audience. The house gave way to laughter. The
indignation of the actor could only be appeased by Cervetto's absurd
excuse, that he invariably yawned when he felt "the greatest rapture,"
and to this emotion the address to the house, so admirably delivered
by his manager, had justified him in yielding. Garrick accepted the
explanation, perhaps rather on account of its humour than of its

Music and the drama have been inseparably connected from the most
remote date. Even in the cart of Thespis some corner must have been
found for the musician. The custom of chanting in churches has been
traced to the practice of the ancient and pagan stage. Music pervaded
the whole of the classical drama, was the adjunct of the poetry: the
play being a kind of recitation, the declamation composed and written
in notes, and the gesticulations even being accompanied. The old
miracle plays were assisted by performers on the horn, the pipe, the
tabret, and the flute--a full orchestra in fact. Mr. Payne Collier, in
his "Annals of the Stage," points out that at the end of the prologue
to "Childermas Day," 1512, the minstrels are required to "do their
diligence," the same expression being employed at the close of the
performance, when they are besought either themselves to dance, or to
play a dance for the entertainment of the company:

    Also ye menstrelles doth your diligence
    Afore our depertying geve us a daunce.

The Elizabethan stage relied greatly upon the aid of trumpets,
cornets, &c., for the "soundings" which announced the commencement of
the prologue, and for the "alarums" and "flourishes" which occurred in
the course of the representation. Malone was of opinion that the band
consisted of some eight or ten musicians stationed in "an upper
balcony over what is now called the stage-box." Collier, however,
shows that the musicians were often divided into two bands, and quotes
a stage direction in Marston's "Antonio's Revenge," 1602: "While the
measure is dancing, Andrugio's ghost is placed betwixt the music
houses." In a play of later date, Middleton's "Chaste Maid in
Cheapside," 1630, appears the direction: "While the company seem to
weep and mourn, there is a sad song in the music-room." Boxes were
then often called rooms, and one was evidently set apart for the use
of the musicians. In certain of Shakespeare's plays the musicians are
clearly required to quit their room for awhile, and appear upon the
stage among the _dramatis personæ._

The practice of playing music between the acts is of long standing,
the frequent inappropriateness of these interludes having been
repeatedly commented on, however. A writer in the last century
expressly complains that at the end of every act, the audience,
"carried away by a jig of Vivaldi's, or a concerto of Giardini's, lose
every warm impression relative to the piece, and begin again cool and
unconcerned as at the commencement of the representation." He
advocates the introduction of music adapted to the subject: "The music
after an act should commence in the tone of the preceding passion, and
be gradually varied till it accords with the tone of the passion that
is to succeed in the next act," so that "cheerful, tender, melancholy,
or animated impressions" may be inspired, as the occasion may need. At
the conclusion of the second act of "Gammer Gurton's Needle," 1566,
Diccon, addressing himself to the musicians, says simply: "In the
meantime, fellows, pipe up your fiddles." But in a later play, the
"Two Italian Gentlemen," by Anthony Munday, printed about 1584, the
different kinds of music to be played after each act are stated,
whether a "pleasant galliard," a "solemn dump," or a "pleasant
allemaigne." So Marston in his "Sophonisba," 1606, indicates
particularly the instruments he would have played during the pauses
between the acts. After act one, "the cornets and organs playing loud
full of music;" after act two, "organs mixed with recorders;" after
act three, "organs, viols, and voices;" with "a base lute and a treble
viol" after act four. In the course of this play, moreover, musical
accompaniments of a descriptive kind were introduced, the stage
direction on two occasions informing us that "infernal music plays
softly." Nabbes, in the prologue to his "Hannibal and Scipio," 1637,
alludes at once to the change of the place of action of the drama, and
to the performance of music between the acts:

    The place is sometimes changed, too, with the scene,
    Which is transacted as the music plays
    Betwixt the acts.

The closing of the theatres by the Puritans, in 1642, plainly
distressed the musicians almost as much as the players. Their
occupation was practically gone, although not declared illegal by Act
of Parliament. "Our music," writes the author of "The Actor's
Remonstrance," 1643, "that was held so delectable and precious that
they scorned to come to a tavern under twenty shillings for two hours,
now wander with their instruments under their cloaks--I mean such as
have any--into all houses of good fellowship, saluting every room
where there is company with: 'Will you have any music, gentlemen?'"

At the Restoration, however, king, actors, and orchestra all enjoyed
their own again. Presently, for the first time it would seem in an
English theatre, the musicians were assigned that intrenched position
between the pit and the stage they have so long maintained. "The front
of the stage is opened, and the band of twenty-four violins with the
harpsicals and theorbos which accompany the voices are placed between
the pit and the stage. While the overture is playing the curtain rises
and discovers a new frontispiece joined to the great pilasters on each
side of the stage," &c. So runs one of the preliminary stage
directions in the version of Shakespeare's "Tempest," arranged by
Dryden and Davenant for performance at the Duke's Theatre, Lincoln's
Inn Fields, in 1667. The change was, no doubt, introduced by Davenant
in pursuance of French example. The authors of the "Histoire
Universelle des Théâtres" state, regarding the French stage, that
after the disuse of the old chorus in 1630, "à la place du chant qui
distinguoit les actes et qui marquoit les repos nécessaires, on
introduisit des joueurs d'instrumens, qui d'abord furent placés sur
les aîles du théâtre, où ils exécutoient différens airs avant la
commencement de la pièce et entre les actes. Ensuite ils furent mis au
fond des troisième loges, puis aux secondes, enfin entre le théâtre et
la parterre, où ils sont restés."

Theatres differ little save in regard to their dimensions. The minor
house is governed by the same laws, is conducted upon the same system,
as the major one. It is as a humbler and cheaper edition, but it
repeats down to minute particulars the example of its costly original.
The orchestra, or some form of orchestra, is always indispensable.
Even that street-corner tragedy which sets forth the story of Punch
and Judy, could not be presented without its pandean-pipe
accompaniment. The lowest vagrant theatre must, like the lady in the
nursery ballad, have music wherever it goes. No doubt this is often of
most inferior quality, suggestive of a return to very early musical
methods. But poverty constrains to primitiveness. Mr. Pepys,
comparing the state of the stage under Killigrew to what it had been
in earlier years, notes: "Then, two or three fiddlers; now, nine or
ten of the best," &c. The orchestra of a strolling theatre has been
known to consist of one fiddler only, and he has been required to
combine with his musical exertions the discharge of secretarial
duties, enlivened by occasional appearances on the stage to strengthen
casts, or help fill up the scene. The strollers' band is often of
uncertain strength. For when the travelling company meets with
misadventure, the orchestra are usually the first to prove unfaithful.
They are the Swiss of the troop. The receipts fail, and the musicians
desert. They carry their gifts elsewhere, and seek independent
markets. The fairs, the racecourses, the country inn-doors, attract
the fiddler, and he strolls on his own account, when the payment of
salaries is suspended. A veteran actor was wont to relate his
experiences of fifty years ago as a member of the Stratford-upon-Avon
company, when the orchestra consisted only of a fife and a tambourine,
the instrumentalists performing, as they avowed, "not from notes but
entirely by ear." Presently the company removed to Warwick for the
race week. But here the managerial difficulties increased--no band
whatever could be obtained! This was the more distressing in that the
performances were to be of an illegitimate character: a "famous
tight-rope dancer" had been engaged. The dancer at once declared that
his exhibition without music was not for a moment to be thought of.
One of the company thereupon obligingly offered his services. He could
play upon the violin: four tunes only. Now, provided an instrument
could be borrowed for the occasion, and provided, moreover, the
tight-rope artist could dance to the tune of "There's Nae Luck," or
"Drink to Me Only," or "Away with Melancholy," or the "National
Anthem," here was a way out of the dilemma, and all might yet be well.
Unfortunately a violin was not forthcoming at any price, and the
dancer declared himself quite unable to dance to the airs stated! How
was faith to be kept with the public? At the last moment a
barrel-organ was secured. The organist was a man of resources. In
addition to turning the handle of his instrument, he contrived to play
the triangle and the pan-pipes. Here, then, was a full band. The
dancer still demurred. He must be assisted by a "clown to the rope,"
to chalk his soles, amuse the audience while he rested, and perform
other useful duties. Another obliging actor volunteered his help. He
would "by special desire and on this occasion only," appear as clown.
So having played Pangloss in the "Heir at Law," the first piece, he
exchanged his doctorial costume for a suit of motley, and the
performance "drew forth," as subsequent playbills stated, "universal
and reiterated bursts of applause from a crowded and elegant
audience." The experiment of the barrel-organ orchestra was not often
repeated. The band of the Leamington Theatre was lent to the Warwick
house, the distance between the establishments being only two miles.
The Leamington audience were provided with music at the commencement
of the evening only; the Warwick playgoers dispensed with orchestral
accompaniments until a later period in the performances.



"It is singular," Miss Mitford wrote to Mr. Fields, her American
publisher, "that epilogues were just dismissed at the first
representation of one of my plays--'Foscari,' and prologues at
another--'Rienzi.'" "Foscari" was originally produced in 1826;
"Rienzi" in 1828. According to Mr. Planché, however, the first play of
importance presented without a prologue was his adaptation of Rowley's
old comedy, "A Woman never Vext," produced at Covent Garden on
November 9th, 1824, with a grand pageant of the Lord Mayor's Show as
it appeared in the time of Henry VI. At one of the last rehearsals,
Fawcett, the stage manager, inquired of the adapter if he had written
a prologue? "No." "A five-act play and no prologue! Why, the audience
will tear up the benches!" But they did nothing of the kind. They took
not the slightest notice of the omission. After that, little more was
heard of the time-honoured custom which had ruled that prologues
should, according to Garrick's description of them--

    Precede the play in mournful verse,
    As undertakers stalk before the hearse;
    Whose doleful march may strike the harden'd mind,
    And wake its feeling for the dead behind.

People, indeed, began rather to wonder why they had ever required or
been provided with a thing that was now found to be, in truth, so
entirely unnecessary.

The prologues of our stage date from the earliest period of the
British drama. They were not so much designed, as were the prologues
of the classical theatre, to enlighten the spectators touching the
subject of the forthcoming play; but were rather intended to bespeak
favour for the dramatist, and to deprecate adverse opinion.
Originally, indeed, the prologue-speaker was either the author himself
in person, or his representative. In his prologue to his farce of "The
Deuce is in Him," George Colman, after a lively fashion, points out
the distinction between the classical and the British forms of
prefatory address:

    What does it mean? What can it be?
    A little patience--and you'll see.
    Behold, to keep your minds uncertain,
    Between the scene and you this curtain!
    So writers hide their plots, no doubt,
    To please the more when all comes out!
    Of old the Prologue told the story,
    And laid the whole affair before ye;
    Came forth in simple phrase to say:
      "'Fore the beginning of the play
      I, hapless Polydore, was found
      By fishermen, or others, drowned!
      Or--I, a gentleman, did wed
      The lady I would never bed,
      Great Agamemnon's royal daughter,
      Who's coming hither to draw water."
    Thus gave at once the bards of Greece
    The cream and marrow of the piece;
    Asking no trouble of your own
    To skim the milk or crack the bone.
      The poets now take different ways,
      "E'en let them find it out for Bayes!"

The prologue-speaker of the Elizabethan stage entered after the
trumpets had sounded thrice, attired in a long cloak of black cloth or
velvet, occasionally assuming a wreath or garland of bays, emblematic
of authorship. In the "Accounts of the Revels in 1573-74," a charge is
made for "bays for the prologgs." Long after the cloak had been
discarded it was still usual for the prologue-speaker to appear
dressed in black. Robert Lloyd, in his "Familiar Epistle to George
Colman," 1761, writes:

    With decent sables on his back
    (Your 'prologuisers' all wear black)
    The prologue comes; and, if it's mine
    It's very good and very fine.
    If not--I take a pinch of snuff,
    And wonder where you got such stuff.

Upon this subject, Mr. Payne Collier notes a stage direction in the
Induction to Heywood's "Four 'Prentices of London," 1615: "Enter
three, in black cloaks, at the doors." Each of them advancing to speak
the prologue, the first exclaims--"What mean you, my masters, to
appear thus before your times? Do you not know that I am the prologue?
Do you not see this long black velvet cloak upon my back? Have you not
sounded thrice?" So also, in the Induction to Ben Jonson's "Cynthia's
Revels," two of the children of the chapel contend for the privilege
of speaking the prologue, one of them maintaining his claim by
pleading "possession of the cloak."

The custom of regarding the "prologuiser" as the author or his
representative, seems gradually to have been departed from, and
prologues came to be delivered by one of the chief actors in the play,
in the character he was about to undertake, or in some other assumed
for the occasion. A certain solemnity of tone, however, was usually
preserved in the prologue to tragedy--the goodwill and merciful
consideration of the audience being still entreated for the author and
his work, although considerable licence was permitted to the comedy
prologue. And the prologues acquired more and more of a dramatic
nature, being divided sometimes between two and three speakers, and
less resembling formal prologues than those Inductions of which the
early dramatists, and especially Ben Jonson, seem to have been so
unreasonably fond. The prologue to "The Poetaster" is spoken, in part,
by Envy "rising in the midst of the stage," and, in part, by an
official representative of the dramatist. So, the prologue to
Shakespeare's Second Part of "King Henry IV." is delivered by Rumour,
"painted full of tongues;" a like office being accomplished by Gower
and Chorus, in regard to the plays of "Pericles" and "King Henry V."
It is to be noted that but few of Shakespeare's prologues and
epilogues have been preserved. Malone conjectures that they were not
held to be indispensable appendages to a play in Shakespeare's time.
But Mr. Collier is probably more correct in assuming that they were
often retrenched by the printer, because they could not be brought
within the compass of a page, and because he was unwilling to add
another leaf. In addition to those mentioned above, the prologues to
"King Henry VIII.," "Troilus and Cressida," and "Romeo and Juliet" are
extant, and have the peculiarity of informing the audience, after the
old classical fashion, something as to the nature of the entertainment
to be set before them. To the tragedy of "The Murder of Gonzago,"
contained in "Hamlet," Shakespeare, no doubt, recognising established
usage, provided the prologue:

    For us and for our tragedy
    Here stooping to your clemency,
    We beg your hearing patiently.

Steele, writing in _The Guardian,_ in 1713, expresses much concern for
the death of Mr. Peer, of the Theatre Royal, "who was an actor at the
Restoration, and took his theatrical degree with Betterton, Kynaston,
and Harris." Mr. Peer, it seems, especially distinguished himself in
two characters, "which no man ever could touch but himself." One of
these was the Apothecary in "Caius Marius," Otway's wretched
adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet;" the other was the speaker of the
prologue to the play in "Hamlet." It is plain that Mr. Peer's
professional rank was not high; for these characters are not usually
undertaken by performers of note. Steele admits that Peer's eminence
lay in a narrow compass, and to that attributes "the enlargement of
his sphere of action" by his employment as property-man in addition to
his histrionic duties. Peer, however, is described as delivering the
three lines of prologue "better than any man else in the world," and
with "universal applause." He spoke "with such an air as represented
that he was an actor and with such an inferior manner as only acting
an actor, as made the others on the stage appear real great persons
and not representatives. This was a nicety in acting that none but the
most subtle player could so much as conceive." It is conceivable,
however, that some of this subtlety existed rather in the fancy of the
critic than in the method of the player. This story of Mr. Peer is
hardly to be equalled; yet Davies relates of Boheme, the actor, that
when, upon his first appearance upon the stage, he played with some
"itinerants" at Stratford-le-Bow, his feeling but simple manner of
delivering Francisco's short speech in "Hamlet"--

    For this relief much thanks: 'tis bitter cold,
    And I am sick at heart--

at once roused the audience to a sense of his merits. "His salary was
immediately increased by the manager; and he proved afterwards a great
ornament of the stage."

The delivery of a prologue by an actress--that is to say, of course,
by a boy in female dress, personating the character of a
woman--appears to have been an unusual proceeding upon the Elizabethan
stage. Mr. Collier has noted instances, however. In the case of the
prologue to "Every Woman in her Humour," 1609, spoken by the heroine
Flavia, "Enter Flavia as a Prologue," runs the stage direction; and
she begins--"Gentles of both sexes and of all sorts, I am sent to bid
ye welcome. I am but instead of a prologue, for a she prologue is as
rare as a usurer's alms." And the prologue to Shirley's "Coronation,"
1640, was also delivered by one of the representatives of female
character. A passage is worth quoting, for its description of ordinary
prologue-speaking at this time:

    Since 'tis become the title of our play,
    A woman once in a Coronation may
    With pardon speak the prologue, give as free
    A welcome to the theatre, as he
    That with a little beard, a long black cloak,
    With a starched face and supple leg hath spoke
    Before the plays this twelvemonth. Let me then
    Present a welcome to these gentlemen.
    If you be kind and noble you will not
    Think the worse of me for my petticoat.

It would seem that impatience was sometimes expressed at the poetic
prologues and lengthy Inductions of the dramatists. The prologue to
Beaumont and Fletcher's "Woman Hater," 1607, begins: "Gentlemen,
Inductions are out of date, and a prologue in verse is as stale as a
black velvet cloak and a bay garland; therefore you have it in plain
prose, thus----." But the alteration did not please, apparently; at
any rate, upon a subsequent production of the play, the authors
furnished it with a prologue in verse of the old-established pattern.

The Elizabethan dramatists often took occasion in their prologues to
lecture the audience upon their conduct in the theatre, exhorting them
to more seemly manners, and especially informing them that nothing of
an indecorous nature would be presented upon the scene. The prologue
to "The Woman Hater," above mentioned, pronounces "to the utter
discomfort of all twopenny gallery men," that there is no impropriety
contained in the play, and bids them depart, if they have been looking
for anything of the kind. "Or if there be any lurking amongst you in
corners," it proceeds, "with table books who have some hope to find
fit matter to feed his malice on, let them clasp them up and slink
away, or stay and be converted." Of the play, it states: "Some things
in it you may meet with which are out of the common road: a duke there
is, and the scene lies in Italy, as those two things lightly we never
miss." The audience, however, are warned not to expect claptraps, or
personal satire. "You shall not find in it the ordinary and overworn
way of jesting at lords and courtiers and citizens, without taxation
of any particular or new vice by them found out, but at the persons of
them; such, he that made this, thinks vile, and for his own part vows
that he never did think but that a lord, lord-born, might be a wise
man, and a courtier an honest man." In the same way Shakespeare's
prologue to "Henry VIII." welcomes those "that can pity," and "such as
give their money out of hope, they may believe." But they are plainly
told they will be deceived who have come to hear a merry graceless

    A noise of targets, or to see a fellow
    In a long motley coat guarded with yellow.

The prologue to Ben Jonson's "Staple of News" entreats the audience to
abstain from idle conversation, and to attend to his play, so that
they may hear as well as see it.

                    He'd have you wise,
    Much rather by your ears than by your eyes;
    And prays you'll not prejudge his play for ill,
    Because you mark it not and sit not still,
    But have a longing to salute or talk.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Alas! what is it to his scene to know
    How many coaches in Hyde Park did show
    Last spring? what fun to-day at Medley's was?
    If Dunstan or the Phoenix best wine has? &c. &c.

In the Induction the prologue is interrupted by the entrance of four
gentlewomen, "lady-like attired," representative of Mirth, Tattle,
Expectation, and Censure or Curiosity. The last-named is charged with
coming to the theatre "to see who wears the new suit to-day; whose
clothes are best formed, whatever the part be; which actor has the
best leg and foot; what king plays without cuffs, and his queen
without gloves; who rides post in stockings and dances in boots." It
is to be noted, too, that at this time the audience occupying the
humbler places in the theatre are very harshly spoken of in the
prologues. They are referred to as--

                   The vulgar sort
    Of nutcrackers that only come for sport--

and as "grounds of your people that sit in the oblique caves and
wedges of your house, your sinful sixpenny mechanicks," &c.

It is plain, however, that the rudeness of Ben Jonson's prologues had
given offence, for, indeed, he employed them not merely to lecture his
audience, but also to lash and laugh to scorn rival playwrights. So to
"The Magnetic Lady" no prologue was provided, but an Induction, in the
course of which "a boy of the house" discourses with two gentlemen
concerning the play, and explains that the author will "not be
entreated to give it a prologue. He has lost too much that way
already, he says. He will not woo the Gentile ignoramus so much. But
careless of all vulgar censure, as not depending on common
approbation, he is confident it shall super-please judicious
spectators, and to them he leaves it to work with the rest by example
or otherwise." Further, the boy gives valuable advice upon the subject
of criticism, bidding the gentlemen take seats and "fly everything you
see to the mark, and censure it freely, so you interrupt not the
series or thread of the argument, to break or pucker it with
unnecessary questions. For I must tell you that a good play is like a
skein of silk, which, if you take by the right end you may wind off at
pleasure on the bottom or card of your discourse in a tale or so--how
you will; but if you light on the wrong end you will pull all into a
knot or elf-lock, which nothing but the shears or a candle will undo
or separate."

After the Restoration prologues appear to have been held more than
ever necessary to theatrical exhibitions. The writing of prologues
even became a kind of special and profitable vocation. Dryden's
customary fee for a prologue was five guineas, which contented him,
until in 1682 he demanded of Southerne ten guineas for a prologue to
"The Loyal Brothers," alleging that the players had hitherto had his
goods too cheaply, and from that time forward ten guineas would be his
charge. Dryden is to be accounted the most famous and successful of
prologue writers, but it must be said that his productions of this
class are deplorably disfigured by the profligacy of his time, and
that all their brilliancy of wit does not compensate for their
uncleanness. Dryden's prologues are also remarkable, for their
frequent recognition of the critics as a class apart from the ordinary
audience; not critics as we understand them exactly, attached to
journals and reviewing plays for the instruction of the public, but
men of fashion affecting judicial airs, and expressing their opinions
in clubs and coffee-houses, and authors charged with attending the
theatres in the hope of witnessing the demolition of a rival bard. The
prologue to "All for Love" opens with the lines--

    What flocks of critics hover here to-day,
    As vultures wait on armies for their prey,
    All gaping for the carcase of a play!

And presently occurs the familiar passage--

    Let those find fault whose wit's so very small,
    They've had to show that they can think at all.
    Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
    He who would search for pearls must dive below.
    Fops may have leave to level all they can,
    As pigmies would be glad to lop a man.
    Half wits are fleas, so little and so light,
    We scarce could know they live, but that they bite.

Another prologue begins--

    They who write ill, and they who ne'er durst write,
    Turn critics out of mere revenge and spite;
    A playhouse gives them fame; and up then starts
    From a mean fifth-rate wit, a man of parts.

The more important critics are described as--

    A jury of the wits who still stay late,
    And in their club decree the poor play's fate;
    Their verdict back is to the boxes brought,
    Thence all the town pronounces it their thought.

"The little Hectors of the pit" are also spoken of, and there is
mention of "Fop-corner," the prototype of "Fop's-alley" of later
years. Now, "a kind, hearty pit" is prayed for, and now, in a prologue
delivered before the University of Oxford, stress is laid upon the
advantages of "a learned pit." It may be noted, too, that the
prologues of Dryden, apart from their wit, and overlooking, if that
can possibly be managed, their distressing grossness, are invaluable
for the accurate and minute pictures they present of English life,
manners, costumes, and character in the reign of Charles II.

In right of the many quotations it has supplied to literature and
conversation, Dr. Johnson's prologue spoken by Garrick upon the
opening of Drury Lane Theatre, in 1747, may claim to be considered the
most famous production of its class. It is not, in truth, however, a
prologue as prologues are ordinarily understood, but rather an
address, written to suit special circumstances, and having no
connection with any particular play. Boswell describes it as
"unrivalled for just and manly criticism on the whole range of the
English stage, as well as for poetic excellence," and records that it
was during the season often called for by the audience. Johnson's
prologue to his friend Goldsmith's comedy of "The Good-natured Man"
was certainly open to the charge brought against it of undue
solemnity. The first lines--

    Press'd with the load of life the weary mind
    Surveys the general toil of human kind--

when enunciated in the sepulchral tones of Bensley, the tragedian,
were judged to have a depressing effect upon the audience--a
conclusion which seems reasonable and probable enough, although
Boswell suggested that "the dark ground might make Goldsmith's humour
shine the more." Goldsmith himself was chiefly disturbed at the line
describing him as "our little bard," which he thought likely to
diminish his dignity, by calling attention to the lowness of his
stature. "Little bard" was therefore altered to "anxious bard."
Johnson also supplied a prologue to Kelly's posthumous comedy of "A
Word to the Wise" (represented in 1770, for the benefit of the
author's widow and children), although he spoke contemptuously of the
departed dramatist as "a dead staymaker," and confessed that he hated
to give away literary performances, or even to sell them too cheaply.
"The next generation," he said, "shall not accuse me of beating down
the price of literature; one hates, besides, to give what one is
accustomed to sell. Would not you, now"--and here he turned to his
brewer friend, Mr. Thrale--"rather give away money than porter?" To
his own tragedy of "Irene," Johnson supplied a spirited prologue,
which "awed" the house, as Boswell believed. In the concluding lines
he deprecated all effort to win applause by other than legitimate

    Be this at least his praise, be this his pride:
    To force applause no modern arts are tried;
    Should partial catcalls all his hopes confound,
    He bids no trumpet quell the fatal sound;
    Should welcome sleep relieve the weary wit,
    He rolls no thunders o'er the drowsy pit;
    No snares to captivate the judgment spreads,
    Nor bribes your eyes to prejudice your heads.
    Unmoved, though witlings sneer and rivals rail,
    Studious to please, yet not ashamed to fail.
    He scorns the meek address, the suppliant strain;
    With merit needless, and without it vain.
    In Reason, Nature, Truth he dares to trust:
    Ye fops be silent, and ye wits be just!

Of prologues generally, Johnson pronounced that Dryden's were superior
to any that David Garrick had written, but that Garrick had written
more good prologues than Dryden. "It is wonderful that he has been
able to write such a variety of them." Garrick's prologues and
epilogues are, indeed, quite innumerable, and are, almost invariably,
sparkling, witty, and vivacious. They could scarcely fail to win the
favour of an audience; and then oftentimes they had the additional
advantage of being delivered by himself.

Prologues seem to have been a recognised vehicle of literary courtesy.
Authors favoured each other with these addresses as a kind of
advertisement of the good understanding that prevailed between
them--an evidence of respect, friendliness, and encouragement. Thus
Addison's tragedy of "Cato" was provided with a prologue by Pope--the
original line, "Britons, arise! be worth like this approved," being
"liquidated" to "Britons attend!"--for the timid dramatist was alarmed
lest he should be judged a promoter of insurrection. Addison in his
turn furnished the prologue to Steele's "Tender Husband," while Steele
favoured Vanbrugh with a prologue to his comedy of "The Mistake."
Johnson, as we have seen, now and then provided his friends with
prologues. The prologue to Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" was
written by Garrick, to be spoken by Woodward, the actor, "dressed in
black, and holding a handkerchief to his eyes;" the prologue to "The
School for Scandal" was also the work of Garrick. Sheridan, it may be
noted, supplied a prologue to Savage's tragedy of "Sir Thomas
Overbury," on the occasion of its revival at Covent Garden,
thirty-four years after the death of its author. Among the last of the
prologues was one written by Mr. Charles Dickens to Dr. Westland
Marston's poetic drama, "The Patrician's Daughter."

Prologues have now vanished, however, and are not likely to be
reintroduced. It must be added that they showed symptoms of decline in
worth long before they departed. Originally apologies for players and
dramatists--at a time when the histrionic profession was very lightly
esteemed--they were retained by the conservatism of the stage as
matters of form, long after they had forfeited all genuine excuse for
their existence. The name is still retained, however, and applied to
the introductory, or, to use Mr. Boucicault's word, "proloquial" acts
of certain long and complicated plays, which seem to require for their
due comprehension the exhibition to the audience of events antecedent
to the real subject of the drama. But these "proloquial acts" are
things quite apart from the old-fashioned prologue.



When, to heighten the effect of their theatrical exhibitions, Thespis
and his playfellows first daubed their faces with the lees of wine,
they may be said to have initiated that art of "making-up" which has
been of such important service to the stage. Paint is to the actor's
face what costume is to his body--a means of decoration or disguise,
as the case may require; an aid to his assuming this or that
character, and concealing the while his own personal identity from the
spectator. The mask of the classical theatre is only to be associated
with a "make-up," in that it substituted a fictitious facial
expression for the actor's own. Roscius is said to have always played
in a vizard, on account of a disfiguring obliquity of vision with
which he was afflicted. It was an especial tribute to his histrionic
merits that the Romans, disregarding this defect, required him to
relinquish his mask, that they might the better appreciate his
exquisite oratory and delight in the music of his voice. In much later
years, however, "obliquity of vision" has been found to be no obstacle
to success upon the stage. Talma squinted, and a dramatic critic,
writing in 1825, noted it as a strange fact that "our three light
comedians, Elliston, Jones, and Browne," each suffered from "what is
called a cast in the eye."

To young and inexperienced players a make-up is precious, in that it
has a fortifying effect upon their courage, and relieves them in some
degree of consciousness of their own personality. They are the better
enabled to forget themselves, seeing their identity can hardly be
present to the minds of others. Garrick made his first histrionic
essay as Aboan, in the play of "Oroonoko," "a part in which his
features could not easily be discerned: under the disguise of a black
countenance he hoped to escape being known, should it be his
misfortune not to please." When Bottom the Weaver is allotted the part
of Pyramus, intense anxiety touching his make-up is an early sentiment
with him. "What beard were I best to play it in?" he inquires. "I will
discharge it in either your straw-coloured beard, your orange-tawny
beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard,
your perfect yellow." Clearly the beard was an important part of the
make-up at this time. Farther on, Bottom counsels his brother clowns:
"Get your apparel together, good strings to your beards, new ribbons
to your pumps;" and there are especial injunctions to the effect that
Thisbe shall be provided with clean linen, that the lion shall pare
his nails, and that there shall be abstinence from onions and garlic
on the part of the company generally.

Old John Downes, who was prompter at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn
Fields from 1662 to 1706, and whose "Roscius Anglicanus" is a most
valuable history of the stage of the Restoration, describes an actor
named Johnson as being especially "skilful in the art of painting,
which is a great adjument very promovent to the art of elocution." Mr.
Waldron, who, in 1789, produced a new edition of the "Roscius
Anglicanus," with notes by Tom Davies, the biographer of Garrick,
decides that Downes's mention of the "art of painting" has reference
to the art of "painting the face and marking it with dark lines to
imitate the wrinkles of old age." This, Waldron continues, "was
formerly carried to excess on the stage, though now a good deal
disused. I have seen actors, who were really older than the characters
they were to represent, mark their faces with black lines of Indian
ink to such a degree that they appeared as if looking through a mask
of wire." And Mr. Waldron finds occasion to add that "Mr. Garrick's
skill in the necessary preparation of his face for the aged and
venerable Lear, and for Lusignan, was as remarkable as his performance
of those characters was admirable."

In 1741 was published "An Historical and Critical Account of the
Theatres in Europe," a translation of a work by "the famous Lewis
Riccoboni, of the Italian Theatre at Paris." The author had visited
England in 1727, apparently, when he had conversed with the great Mr.
Congreve, finding in him "taste joined with great learning," and
studied with some particularity the condition of the English stage.
"As to the actors," he writes, "if, after forty-five years' experience
I may be entitled to give my opinion, I dare advance that the best
actors in Italy and France come far short of those in England." And he
devotes some space to a description of a performance he witnessed at
the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, dwelling especially upon the
skill of an actor who personated an old man. "He who acted the old man
executed it to the nicest perfection which one could expect in no
player who had not forty years' experience.... I made no manner of
doubt of his being an old comedian, who, instructed by long
experience, and, at the same time, assisted by the weight of years,
had performed it so naturally. But how great was my surprise when I
learned that he was a young man of about twenty-six! I could not
believe it; but I owned that it might be possible had he only used a
trembling and broken voice, and had only an extreme weakness possessed
his body, because I conceived it possible for a young actor, by the
help of art, to imitate that debility of nature to such a pitch of
exactness; but the wrinkles of his face, his sunken eyes, and his
loose and yellow cheeks, the most certain marks of a great old age,
were incontestable proofs against what they said to me.
Notwithstanding all this I was forced to submit to truth, because I
know for certain that the actor, to fit himself for the part of the
old man, spent an hour in dressing himself, and that, with the
assistance of several pencils, he disguised his face so nicely and
painted so artificially a part of his eyebrows and eyelids, that, at
the distance of six paces, it was impossible not to be deceived. I was
desirous to be a witness of this myself, but pride hindered me; so,
knowing I must be ashamed, I was satisfied with a confirmation of it
from other actors. Mademoiselle Sallé, among others, who then shone
upon that stage, confessed to me that the first time she saw him
perform she durst not go into a passage where he was, fearing lest she
should throw him down should she happen to touch him in passing by."
Assuredly a more successful make-up than this could not be desired. In
conclusion, Signor Riccoboni flatters himself that his reference to
this matter may not be thought altogether useless; "it may let us know
to what an exactness the English comedians carry the imitation of
nature, and may serve for a proof of all that I have advanced of the
actors of the English theatre."

Dogget, the old comedian of Queen Anne's time--to whom we owe an
annual boat-race upon the Thames for a "coat and badge," and,
inferentially, the popular burletta of "The Waterman"--was remarkably
skilful, according to Colley Cibber, "in dressing a character to the
greatest exactness ... the least article of whatever habit he wore
seemed to speak and mark the different humour he represented; a
necessary care in a comedian, in which many have been too remiss or
ignorant." This is confirmed by another critic, who states that Dogget
"could with the greatest exactness paint his face so as to represent
the ages of seventy, eighty, and ninety, distinctly, which occasioned
Sir Godfrey Kneller to tell him one day at Button's Coffee House, that
'he excelled him in painting, for that he could only paint from the
originals before him, but that he (Dogget) could vary them at
pleasure, and yet keep a close likeness.'" In the character of
Moneytrap, the miser, in Vanbrugh's comedy of "The Confederacy,"
Dogget is described as wearing "an old threadbare black coat, to which
he had put new cuffs, pocket-lids, and buttons, on purpose to make its
rusticness more conspicuous. The neck was stuffed so as to make him
appear round-shouldered, and give his head the greater prominency; his
square-toed shoes were large enough to buckle over those he wore in
common, which made his legs appear much smaller than usual."
Altogether, Mr. Dogget's make-up appears to have been of a very
thorough and artistic kind.

Garrick's skill "in preparing his face" has been already referred to,
upon the authority of Mr. Waldron. From the numerous pictures of the
great actor, and the accounts of his histrionic method furnished by
his contemporaries, it would seem, however, as though he relied less
upon the application of paint than upon his extraordinary command of
facial expression. At a moment's notice he completely varied his
aspect, "conveying into his face every possible kind of passion,
blending one into another, and as it were shadowing them with an
infinite number of gradations.... In short," says Dibdin, "his face
was what he obliged you to fancy it: age, youth, plenty, poverty,
everything it assumed." Certainly an engraved portrait of Garrick as
Lear, published in 1761, does not suggest his deriving much help from
the arts of making-up or of costume. He wears a short robe of velvet,
trimmed with ermine, his white wig is disordered and his shirt-front
is much crumpled; but otherwise his white silk hose, lace ruffles,
high-heeled shoes and diamond buckles, are more appropriate to Sir
Peter Teazle than to King Lear. And as much may be said of his
closely-shaven face, the smooth surface of which is not disturbed by
the least vestige of a beard. Yet the King Lears of later times have
been all beard, or very nearly so. With regard to Garrick's appearance
in the part of Lusignan, Davies relates how, two days before his
death, the suffering actor, very wan and sallow of countenance, slow
and solemn of movement, was seen to wear a rich night-gown, like that
which he always wore in Lusignan, the venerable old king of Jerusalem;
he presented himself to the imagination of his friend as if he was
just ready to act that character.

Charles Mathews, the elder, no doubt possessed much of Garrick's power
of changing at will his facial aspect. At the theatre of course he
resorted to the usual methods of making-up for the part he played; but
the sudden transformations of which his "At Homes" largely consisted
were accomplished too rapidly to be much assisted by pencilling the
face, as were indeed the feats he sometimes accomplished in private
circles, for the entertainment of his friends. In the biography of her
husband, Mrs. Mathews relates how his advice was once sought by Godwin
the novelist, just before the publication of his story of "Cloudesly,"
on a matter--the art of making-up--the actor was held to have made
peculiarly his own. Godwin wrote to him: "My dear Sir,--I am at this
moment engaged in writing a work of fiction, a part of the incidents
of which will consist in escapes in disguises. It has forcibly struck
me that if I could be indulged in the pleasure of half-an-hour's
conversation with you on the subject, it would furnish me with some
hints, which, beaten on the anvil of my brain, would be of eminent
service to me on the occasion," &c. A meeting was appointed, and, at
an early date the author dined at the actor's cottage. Godwin, anxious
not to outrage probability in his story, sought information as to "the
power of destroying personal identity." Mathews assumed several
disguises, and fully satisfied his visitor upon the point in question.
"Soon after," writes Mrs. Mathews, "a gentleman, an eccentric
neighbour of ours, broke in upon us as Mr. Godwin was expressing his
wonder at the variety of expression, character, and voice of which Mr.
Mathews was capable. We were embarrassed, and Mr. Godwin evidently
vexed at the intruder. However, there was no help for it; the servant
had admitted him, and he was introduced in form to Mr. Godwin. The
moment Mr. Jenkins (for such was his name) discovered the
distinguished person he had so luckily for him dropped in upon, he was
enthusiastically pleased at the event, talked to Mr. Godwin about all
his works, inquired about the forthcoming book--in fact, bored him
through and through. At last the author turned to my husband for
refuge against this assault of admiration, and discovered that his
host had left the room. He therefore rose from his seat and approached
the window leading to the lawn, Mr. Jenkins officiously following, and
insisting upon opening it for him; and while he was urging a
provokingly obstinate lock, the object of his devoted attention waited
behind him for release. The casement at length flew open, and Mr.
Godwin passing the gentleman with a courteous look of thanks, found to
his astonishment that Mr. Jenkins had disappeared, and that Mr.
Mathews stood in his place!" Students of "Cloudesly" may discover
therein the result of Godwin's interview with Mathews, and their
discussion concerning the art of making-up and disguise.

Some fifty years ago Mr. Leman Thomas Rede published "The Road to the
Stage, a Player's Vade-Mecum." setting forth, among other matters,
various details of the dressing-rooms behind the curtain. Complaint
was made at the time that the work destroyed "the romance of the
profession," and laid bare the mysteries of the actor's life, such as
the world in general had small concern with. But Mr. Rede's
revelations do not tell very much; at any rate, the secrets he deals
with have come to be things of common knowledge. Nor are his
instructions upon the art of making-up to be accounted highly in these
times. "Light-comedy calves," he tells us, "are made of ragged silken
hose;" and what may be called "Othello's blacking," is to be composed
of "burnt cork, pulverised and mixed with porter." Legs coming before
the foot-lights must of course be improved by mechanical means, when
nature has been unkind, or time has destroyed symmetry; but art has
probably discovered a better method of concealing deficiencies than
consists in the employment of "ragged silken hose." The veteran light
comedian, Lewis, who at a very advanced age appeared in juvenile
characters, to the complete satisfaction of his audience, was famed
for his skill in costume and making-up. But one night, a roguish
actress, while posted near him in the side-wings, employed herself in
converting one of his calves into a pincushion. As soon as he
discovered the trick, he affected to feel great pain, and drew up his
leg as though in an agony; but he had remained too long unconscious of
the proceeding to persuade lookers-on of the genuineness of his limb's
symmetry. With regard to Othello's complexion, there is what the
Cookery Books call "another way." Chetwood, in his "History of the
Stage," 1749, writes: "The composition for blackening the face are
(_sic_) ivory-black and pomatum; which is with some pains cleaned with
fresh butter." The information is given in reference to a performance
of Othello by the great actor Barton Booth. It was hot weather, and
his complexion in the later scenes of the play had been so disturbed,
that he had assumed "the appearance of a chimney-sweeper." The
audience, however, were so impressed by the art of his acting, that
they disregarded this mischance, or applauded him the more on account
of it. On the repetition of the play he wore a crape mask, "with an
opening proper for the mouth, and shaped in form for the nose." But in
the first scene one part of the mask slipped so that he looked "like a
magpie." Thereupon he was compelled to resort again to lamp-black. The
early Othellos, it may be noted, were of a jet-black hue, such as we
now find on the faces of Christy Minstrels; the Moors of later times
have been content to paint themselves a dark olive or light mahogany
colour. But a liability to soil all they touch has always been the
misfortune of Othellos. There was great laughter in the theatre one
night when Stephen Kemble, playing Othello for the first time with
Miss Satchell as Desdemona, kissed her before smothering her, and left
an ugly patch of soot upon her cheek. However, as Miss Satchell
subsequently became Mrs. Stephen Kemble, it was held that sufficient
amends had been made to her for the soiling she had undergone.

Another misadventure, in regard to the complexion of Shakespeare's
Moor, has been related of an esteemed actor, for many years past
attached to the Haymarket Theatre. While but a tyro in his profession,
he had undertaken to appear as Othello, for one night only, at the
Gravesend Theatre. But, not being acquainted with the accustomed
method of blackening his skin, and being too nervous and timid to make
inquiry on the subject, he applied to his face a burnt cork, simply.
At the conclusion of the performance, on seeking to resume his natural
hue, by the ordinary process of washing in soap and water, he found,
to his great dismay, that the skin of his face was peeling off rather
than the colour disappearing! The cork had been too hot by a great
deal, and had injured his cuticle considerably. With the utmost haste,
although announced to play Hamlet on the following evening, the
actor--who then styled himself Mr. Hulsingham, a name he forthwith
abandoned--hired a post-chaise and eloped from Gravesend.

Making-up is in requisition when the performer desires to look either
younger or older than he or she really is. It is, of course, with the
first-named portion of the art that actresses are chiefly concerned,
although the beautiful Mrs. Woffington, accepting the character of
Veturia in Thomson's "Coriolanus," did not hesitate to assume the
aspect of age, and to paint lines and wrinkles upon her fair face. But
she was a great artist, and her loveliness was a thing so beyond all
question that she could afford to disguise it or to seem to slight it
for a few nights; possibly it shone the brighter afterwards for its
brief eclipse. Otherwise, making-up pertains to an actor's "line of
business," and is not separable from it. Once young or once old he so
remains, as a rule, until the close of his professional career. There
is indeed a story told of a veteran actor who still flourished in
juvenile characters, while his son, as a matter of choice, or of
necessity, invariably impersonated the old gentlemen of the stage. But
when the two players met in a representation of "The Rivals," and Sir
Anthony the son, had to address Captain Absolute the father, in the
words of the dramatist: "I'll disown you; I'll unget you; I'll never
call you Jack again!" the humour of the situation appealed too
strongly to the audience, and more laughter than Sheridan had ever
contemplated was stirred by the scene.

The veterans who have been accused of superfluously lagging upon the
stage, find an excuse for their presence in the skill of their
make-up. For the age of the players is not to be counted, by the
almanack, but appraised in accordance with their looks. On the stage
to seem young is to be young, though occasionally it must happen that
actors and audience are not quite in agreement upon this question of
aspect. There have been many youthful dramatic heroines very well
stricken in years; ingenues of advanced age, and columbines who might
almost be crones; to say nothing of "young dogs" of light comedians,
who in private life are well qualified to appear as grandsires, or
even as great-grandfathers. But ingenuity in painting the face and
padding the figure will probably long secure toleration for
patriarchal Romeos, and even for matriarchal Juliets.

Recent discoveries have no doubt benefited the toilets of the players,
which, indeed, stood in need of assistance, the fierce illumination of
the modern stage being considered. In those palmy but dark days of the
drama, when gas and lime-lights were not, the disguising of the
mischief wrought by time must have been a comparatively easy task.

However, supply, as usual, has followed demand, and there are now
traders dealing specially in the materials for making-up, in
theatrical cosmetics of the best possible kind at the lowest possible
prices: "Superfine rouge, rose for lips, blanc (liquid and in powder),
pencils for eyebrows, creme de l'impératrice and fleur-de-riz for
softening the skin," &c. Further, there are the hairdressers, who
provide theatrical wigs of all kinds, and advertise the merits of
their "old men's bald pates," which must seem a strange article of
sale to those unversed in the mysteries of stage dressing-rooms. One
inventive person, it may be noted, loudly proclaims the merits of a
certain "spirit gum" he has concocted, using which, as he alleges, "no
actor need fear swallowing his moustache"--so runs the form of his

Of Mademoiselle Guirnard, the famous French opera-dancer, it is
related that her portrait, painted in early youth, always rested upon
her dressing-table. Every morning, during many years, she carefully
made up her face to bring her looks in as close accord as possible
with the loveliness of her picture. For an incredible time her success
is reported to have been something marvellous. But at last the
conviction was forced upon her that her facial glories had departed.
Yet her figure was still perfectly symmetrical, her grace and agility
were as supreme as they had ever been. She was sixty-four, when,
yielding to the urgent entreaties of her friends, she consented to
give a "very last" exhibition of her art. The performance was of a
most special kind. The curtain was so far lowered as to conceal
completely the head and shoulders of the dancer. "Il fût impossible
aux spectateurs," writes a biographer of the lady, "de voir autre que
le travail de ses jambes dont le temps avait respecté l'agilité et les
formes pures et délicates!"

By way of final word on the subject, it may be stated that making-up
is but a small portion of the histrionic art; and not, as some would
have it, the very be-all and end-all of acting. It is impossible not
to admire the ingenuity of modern face-painting upon the stage, and
the skill with which, in some cases, well-known personages have been
represented by actors of, in truth, totally different physical aspect;
but still there seems a likelihood of efforts of this kind being urged
beyond reasonable bounds. So, too, there appears to be an excessive
use of cosmetics and colouring by youthful performers, who really need
little aid of this kind, beyond that application of the hare's-foot
which can never be altogether dispensed with. Moreover, it has become
necessary for players, who have resolved that their faces shall be
pictures, to decide from what part of the theatre such works of art
are to be viewed. At present many of these over-painted countenances
may "fall into shape," as artists say, when seen from the back benches
of the gallery, for instance; but judged from a nearer standpoint they
are really but pictorial efforts of a crude, uncomfortable, and
mistaken kind.



Vasari, the historian of painters, has much to say in praise of the
"perspective views" or scenes executed by Baldassare Peruzzi, an
artist and architect of great fame in his day, who was born in 1480 at
Florence, or Volterra, or Siena, it is not known which, each of these
noble cities of Tuscany having claimed to be his birthplace. When the
Roman people held high festival in honour of Giuliano de Medici, they
obtained various works of art from Baldassare, including a scene
painted for a theatre, so admirably ingenious and beautiful, that very
great amazement is said to have been awakened in every beholder. At a
later period, when the "Calandra," written by the Cardinal di
Bibiena--"one of the first comedies seen or recited in the vulgar
tongue"--was performed before Pope Leo, the aid of Baldassare was
sought again, to prepare the scenic adornments of the representation.
His labours were successful beyond measure; two of his scenes, painted
upon this or upon some other occasion, Vasari pronounced to be
"surprisingly beautiful, opening the way to those of a similar kind
which have been made in our own day." The artist was a fine colourist,
well skilled in perspective, and in the management of light, insomuch
that his drawings did not look "like things feigned, but rather as the
living reality." Vasari relates that he conducted Titian to see
certain works of Peruzzi, of which the illusion was most complete. The
greater artist "could by no means be persuaded that they were simply
painted, and remained in astonishment, when, on changing his point of
view, he perceived that they were so." Dying in 1536, Baldassare was
buried in the Rotondo, near the tomb of Raffaelo da Urbino, all the
painters, sculptors, and architects of Rome attending the interment.
That he was an artist of the first rank was agreed on all hands. And
he is further entitled to be remembered as one of the very earliest of
great scene-painters.

In England, some six-and-thirty years later, there was born an artist
and architect of even greater fame than Peruzzi: Inigo Jones, who,
like Peruzzi, rendered important aid to the adornment of the stage. In
his youth Inigo had studied landscape-painting in Italy. At Rome he
became an architect; as Walpole expresses it, "he dropped the pencil
and conceived Whitehall."

Meanwhile a taste, even a sort of passion, had arisen at the English
court for masques and pageants of extraordinary magnificence. Poetry,
painting, music, and architecture were combined in their production.
Ben Jonson was the laureate; Inigo Jones the inventor and designer of
the scenic decorations; Laniere, Lawes, and Ferabosco contributed the
musical embellishments; the king, the queen, and the young nobility
danced in the interludes. On these entertainments £3000 to £5000 were
often expended, and on more public occasions £10,000 and even £20,000.
"It seems," says Isaac Disraeli, "that as no masque writer equalled
Jonson, so no 'machinist' rivalled Inigo Jones." For the great
architect was wont to busy himself in devising mechanical changes of
scenery, such as distinguishes modern pantomime. Jonson, describing
his "Masque of Blackness," performed before the court at Whitehall, on
Twelfth Night, 1605, says: "For the scene was drawn a landscape,
consisting of small woods, and here and there a void place, filled
with hangings; which falling, an artificial sea was seen to shoot
forth, as if it flowed to the land, raised with waves, which seemed to
move, and in some places the billows to break, as imitating that
orderly disorder which is common in nature." Then follows a long
account of the appearance, attire, and "sprightly movements of the
masquers:" Oceanus, Oceaniæ, Niger and his daughters, with Tritons,
mermaids, mermen, and sea-horses, "as big as the life." "These thus
presented," he continues, "the scene behind seemed a vast sea, and
united with this that flowed forth, from the termination or horizon of
which (being the head of the stage, which was placed in the upper end
of the hall) was drawn by the lines of perspective, the whole work
shooting downwards from the eye, which decorum made it more
conspicuous, and caught the eye afar off with a wondering beauty, to
which was added an obscure and cloudy night piece, that made the whole
set off. So much for the bodily part, which was of Master Inigo
Jones's design and art." Indeed, Inigo was not simply the
scene-painter; he also devised the costumes, and contrived the
necessary machinery. In regard to many of these entertainments, he was
responsible for "the invention, ornaments, scenes, and apparitions,
with their descriptions;" for everything, in fact, but the music or
the words to be spoken or sung.

These masques and court pageants gradually brought movable scenery
upon the stage, in place of the tapestries, "arras cloths,"
"traverses," or curtains drawn upon rods, which had previously
furnished the theatre. Still the masques were to be distinguished from
the ordinary entertainments of the public playhouses. The court
performances knew little of regular plot or story; ordinarily avoided
all reference to nature and real life; and were remarkable for the
luxurious fancifulness and costly eccentricity they displayed. They
were provided by the best writers of the time, and in many cases were
rich in poetic merit. Still they were expressly designed to afford
valuable opportunities to the musical composer, to the ballet-dancers,
mummers, posture-makers, and costumiers. The regular dramas, such as
the Elizabethan public supported, could boast few attractions of this
kind. It was altogether without movable scenery, although possessed of
a balcony or upper stage, used to represent, now the walls of a city,
as in "King John," now the top of a tower, as in "Henry VI.", or
"Antony and Cleopatra," and now the window to an upper chamber. Mr.
Payne Collier notes that in one of the oldest historical plays extant,
"Selimus, Emperor of the Turks," published in 1594, there is a
remarkable stage direction demonstrating the complete absence of
scenery, by the appeal made to the simple good faith of the audience.
The hero is represented conveying the body of his father in a solemn
funeral procession to the Temple of Mahomet. The stage direction runs:
"Suppose the Temple of Mahomet"--a needless injunction, as Mr. Collier
remarks, if there had existed the means of exhibiting the edifice in
question to the eyes of the spectators. But the demands upon the
audience to abet the work of theatrical illusion, and with their
thoughts to piece out the imperfections of the dramatists, are
frequently to be met with in the old plays. Of the poverty of the
early stage, in the matter of scenic decorations, there is abundant
evidence. Fleckno, in his "Short Discourse of the Stage," 1664, by
which time movable scenery had been introduced, writes: "Now for the
difference between our theatres and those of former times; they were
but plain and simple, with no other scenes nor decorations of the
stages but only old tapestry, and the stage strewed with rushes."

The simple expedient of writing up the names of the different places,
where the scene was laid in the progress of a play, or affixing a
placard to that effect upon the tapestry at the back of the stage,
sufficed to convey to the spectators the intentions of the author.
"What child is there," asks Sir Philip Sidney, "that, coming to a play
and seeing Thebes written in great letters on an old door, doth
believe that it is Thebes?" Oftentimes, too, opportunity was found in
the play itself, or in its prologue, to inform the audience of the
place in which the action of the story is supposed to be laid. "Our
scene is Rhodes," says old Hieronymo in Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy," 1588.
And the title of the play was also exhibited in the same way, so that
the audience did not lack instruction as to the purport of the
entertainment set before them.

The introduction of movable scenes upon the stage has been usually
attributed to Sir William Davenant, who, in 1658, evading the
ordinance of 1647, by which the theatres were peremptorily closed,
produced, at the Cockpit in Drury Lane, an entertainment rather than a
play, entitled "The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru, expressed by
vocal and instrumental music, and by art of perspective in scenes:" an
exhibition which Cromwell is generally supposed to have permitted,
more from his hatred of the Spaniards than by reason of his tolerance
of dramatic performances. The author of "Historia Histrionica," a
tract written in 1699, also expressly states that "after the
Restoration, the king's players acted publicly at the Red Bull for
some time, and then removed to a new-built playhouse in Vere Street,
by Clare Market; there they continued for a year or two, and then
removed to the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, where they first made use
of scenes, which had been a little before introduced upon the public
stage by Sir William Davenant." It is to be observed, however, that
inasmuch as the masques, such as the court of Charles I. had so
favoured, were sometimes produced at the public theatres, and could
hardly have been presented there, shorn of the mechanical appliances
and changes which constituted a main portion of their attractiveness,
movable scenery, or stage artifices that might fairly be so described,
could not be entirely new to a large portion of the public. Thus the
masque of "Love's Mistress, or the Queen's Masque," by Thomas Heywood,
1640, was "three times presented before their Majesties at the Phoenix
in Drury Lane;" Heywood expressly acknowledging his obligation to
Inigo Jones, who "changed the stage to every act, and almost to every

It must not be supposed, however, that the introduction of scenery was
hailed unanimously as a vast improvement upon the former condition of
the stage. There was, no doubt, abundance of applause; a sufficient
number of spectators were well pleased to find that now their eyes
were to be addressed not less than their ears and their minds, and
were satisfied that exhibitions of the theatre would be presently much
more intelligible to them than had hitherto been the case. Still the
sages shook their heads, distrusting the change, and prophesying evil
of it. Even Mr. Payne Collier has been moved by his conservative
regard for the Elizabethan stage and the early drama to date from the
introduction of scenery the beginning of the decline of our dramatic
poetry. He holds it a fortunate circumstance for the poetry of our old
plays, that "painted movable scenery" had not then been introduced.
"The imagination only of the auditor was appealed to, and we owe to
the absence of painted canvas many of the finest descriptive passages
in Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and immediate followers." Further,
he states his opinion that our old dramatists "luxuriated in passages
descriptive of natural or artificial scenery, because they knew their
auditors would have nothing before their eyes to contradict the
poetry; the hangings of the stage made little pretensions to anything
but coverings for the walls, and the notion of the place represented
was taken from what was said by the poet, and not from what was
attempted by the painter."

It need hardly be stated that the absence of scenes and scene-shifting
had by no means confined the British drama to a classical form,
although regard for "unity of place," at any rate, might seem to be
almost logically involved in the immovable condition of the
stage-fittings. Some two or three plays, affecting to follow the
construction adopted by the Greek and Roman stage, are certainly to be
found in the Elizabethan repertory, but they had been little favoured
by the playgoers of the time, and may fairly be viewed as exceptions
proving the rule that our drama is essentially romantic. Indeed, our
old dramatists were induced by the absence of scenery to rely more and
more upon the imagination of their audience. As Mr. Collier observes:
"If the old poets had been obliged to confine themselves merely to the
changes that could at that early date have been exhibited by the
removal of painted canvas or boarding, we should have lost much of
that boundless diversity of situation and character allowed by this
happy absence of restraint." At the same time, the liberty these
writers permitted themselves did not escape criticism from the devout
adherents of the classical theatre. Sir Philip Sidney, in his "Apology
for Poetry," 1595, is severe upon the "defectious" nature of the
English drama, especially as to its disregard of the unities of time
and place. "Now," he says, three ladies "walk to gather flowers, and
then we must believe the stage to be a garden; by-and-by we hear news
of shipwreck in the same place, and then we are to blame if we accept
it not for a rock; upon the back of that comes out a hideous monster,
and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave;
while in the meantime two armies fly in, represented with four swords
and bucklers, and then, what hard heart will not receive it for a
pitched field?" Dryden, it may be noted, in his "Essay of Dramatic
Poesie," has a kindred passage as to the matters to be acted on the
stage, and the things "supposed to be done behind the scenes."

Of the scenery of his time, Mr. Pepys makes frequent mention, without,
however, entering much into particulars on the subject. In August,
1661, he notes the reproduction of Davenant's comedy of "The Wits,"
"never acted yet with scenes;" adding, "and, indeed, it is a most
excellent play and admirable scenes." A little later he records a
performance of "'Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,' done with scenes very
well, but, above all, Betterton did the prince's part beyond
imagination." It is satisfactory to find that in this case, at any
rate, the actor held his ground against the scene-painter. Under
another date, he refers to a representation of "The Faithful
Shepherdess" of Fletcher, "a most simple thing, and yet much thronged
after and often shown; but it is only for the scene's sake, which is
very fine." A few years later he describes a visit "to the King's
Playhouse all in dirt, they being altering of the stage, to make it
wider. But my business," he proceeds, "was to see the inside of the
stage, and all the 'tiring-rooms and machines; and, indeed, it was a
sight worth seeing. But to see their clothes, and the various sorts,
and what a mixture of things there was--here a wooden leg, there a
ruff, here a hobby-horse, there a crown, would make a man split
himself to see with laughing; and particularly Lacy's wardrobe and
Shotrell's. But then, again, to think how fine they show on the stage
by candlelight, and how poor things they are to look at too near at
hand, is not pleasant at all. The machines are fine, and," he
concludes, "the paintings very pretty." In October, 1667, he records
that he sat in the boxes for the first time in his life, and
discovered that from that point of view "the scenes do appear very
fine indeed, and much better than in the pit."

The names of the artists whose works won Mr. Pepys's applause have not
come down to us. Of Robert Streeter, sergeant-painter to King Charles
II., there is frequent mention made in the "Diary" of Evelyn, who
highly lauds the artist's "very glorious scenes and perspectives,"
which adorned Dryden's play of "The Conquest of Granada," on its
representation at Whitehall. Evelyn, not caring much for such
entertainments, seems, nevertheless, to have frequently attended the
plays and masques of the Court. In February, 1664, he saw acted "The
Indian Queen" of Sir Robert Howard and Dryden--"a tragedy well
written, so beautiful with rich scenes as the like had never been seen
here, or haply (except rarely) elsewhere on a mercenary theatre." At a
later date, one Robert Aggas, a painter of some fame, is known to have
executed scenes for the theatre in Dorset Garden. Among other
scene-painters of distinction, pertaining to a comparatively early
period of the art, may be noted Nicholas Thomas Dall, a Danish
landscape-painter, who established himself in London in 1760, was long
occupied as scene-painter at Covent Garden Theatre, and became an
Associate of the Royal Academy in 1771; Hogarth, who is reported to
have painted a camp scene for the private theatre of Dr. Hoadley, Dean
of Winchester; John Richards, a member of the Royal Academy, who,
during many years, painted scenes for Covent Garden; Michael Angelo
Rooker, pupil of Paul Sandby, and one of the first Associates of the
Academy, who was scene-painter at the Haymarket; Novosielsky, the
architect of the Opera House, Haymarket, who also supplied that
establishment with many notable scenes, and, to pass over many minor
names, De Loutherbourg, Garrick's scene-painter, and one of the most
renowned artists of his period.

It will be remembered that Mr. Puff, in "The Critic," giving a
specimen of "the puff direct" in regard to a new play, says: "As to
the scenery, the miraculous powers of Mr. De Loutherbourg are
universally acknowledged. In short, we are at a loss which to admire
most, the unrivalled genius of the author, the great attention and
liberality of the managers, the wonderful abilities of the painter, or
the incredible exertions of all the performers." Shortly after his
arrival in England, about 1770, De Loutherbourg became a contributor
to the exhibition of the Royal Academy. In 1780 he was elected an
Associate; in the following year he obtained the full honours of
academicianship. His easel-pictures were for the most part landscapes,
effective and forcible after an unconventional fashion, and wholly at
variance with the "classically-composed" landscapes then in vogue.
Turner, when, in 1808, he was appointed Professor of Perspective to
the Royal Academy, is said to have taken up his abode at Hammersmith,
in order that he might be near De Loutherbourg, for whose works he
professed cordial admiration. The old scene-painter's bold and strong
effects, his daring treatment of light and shade, his system of
colour, bright even to gaudiness, probably arrested the attention of
the younger artist, and were to him exciting influences. Upon De
Loutherbourg's landscapes, however, little store is now placed; but as
a scene-painter he deserves to be remembered for the ingenious reforms
he introduced. He found the scene a mere "flat" of strained canvas
extending over the whole stage. He was the first to use "set scenes"
and "raking pieces." He also invented transparent scenes with
representations of moonlight, sunshine, firelight, volcanoes, &c., and
obtained new effects of colour by means of silken screens of various
hues placed before the foot and side lights. He discovered, too, that
ingenious effects might be obtained by suspending gauzes between the
scene and the spectators. These are now, of course, but commonplace
contrivances; they were, however, distinctly the inventions of De
Loutherbourg, and were calculated to impress the playgoers of his time
very signally. To Garrick De Loutherbourg rendered very important
assistance, for Garrick was much inclined for scenic decorations of a
showy character, although as a rule he restricted these embellishments
to the after-pieces, and for the more legitimate entertainments of his
stage was content to employ old and stock scenery that had been of
service in innumerable plays. Tate Wilkinson, writing in 1790, refers
to a scene then in use which he remembered so far back as the year
1747. "It has wings and a flat of Spanish figures at full length, and
two folding-doors in the middle. I never see those wings slide on, but
I feel as if seeing my old acquaintance unexpectedly."

Of later scene-painters, such as Roberts and Stanfield, Grieve and
Telbin, and to come down to the present time, Beverley and Calcott,
Hawes Craven and O'Connor, there seems little occasion to speak; the
achievements of these artists are matters of almost universal
knowledge. It is sufficient to say that in their hands the art they
practise has been greatly advanced, even to the eclipse now and then
of the efforts of both actors and dramatists.

Some few notes, however, may be worth making in relation to the
technical methods adopted by the scene-painter. In the first place, he
relies upon the help of the carpenter to stretch a canvas tightly over
a frame, or to nail a wing into shape; and subsequently it is the
carpenter's duty, with a small sharp saw, to cut the edge of irregular
wings, such as representations of foliage or rocks, an operation known
behind the curtain as "marking the profile." The painter's studio is
usually high up above the rear of the stage--a spacious room, well
lighted by means of skylights or a lantern in the roof. The canvas,
which is of course of vast dimensions, can be raised to the ceiling,
or lowered through the floor, to suit the convenience of the artist,
by means of machinery of ingenious construction. The painter has
invariably made a preliminary water-colour sketch of his scene, on
paper or cardboard. Oftentimes, with the help of a miniature stage,
such as schoolboys delight in, he is enabled to form a fair estimate
of the effect that may be expected of his design. The expansive canvas
has been sized over, and an outline of the picture to be painted--a
landscape, or an interior, as the case may be--has been boldly marked
out by the artist. Then the assistants and pupils ply their brushes,
and wash in the broad masses of colour, floods of light, and clouds of
darkness. The dimensions of the canvas permit of many hands being
employed upon it, and the work proceeds therefore with great rapidity.
But the scene-painter is constant in his supervision of his
subordinates, and when their labours are terminated, he completes the
design with numberless improving touches and masterly strokes. Of
necessity, much of the work is of a mechanical kind; scroll-work,
patterned walls, or cornices are accomplished by "stencilling" or
"pouncing"--that is to say, the design is pricked upon a paper, which,
being pressed upon the canvas, and smeared or dabbed with charcoal,
leaves a faint trace of the desired outline. The straight lines in an
architectural scene are traced by means of a cord, which is rubbed
with colour in powder, and, having been drawn tight, is allowed to
strike smartly against the canvas, and deposit a distinct mark upon
its surface. Duty of this kind is readily accomplished by a boy, or a
labourer of little skill. Scenes of a pantomime order, in which
glitter is required, are dabbed here and there by the artist with thin
glue; upon these moist places, Dutch metal--gold or silver leaf--is
then fixed, with a result that large audiences have never failed to
find resplendent and beautiful. These are some, but, of course, a few
only, of the methods and mysteries of the scene-painter's art.



The information that has come down to us in relation to the wardrobe
department of the Elizabethan theatre, and the kind of costumes worn
by our early actors, is mainly derived from the diaries of Philip
Henslowe and his partner, Edward Alleyn, the founder of Dulwich
College. Henslowe became a theatrical manager some time before 1592,
trading also as a pawnbroker, and dealing rather usuriously with the
players and playwrights about him. Alleyn married the step-daughter of
Henslowe, and thereupon entered into partnership with him. Malone has
made liberal extracts from Henslowe's inventories, which bear date
1598-99, and were once safely possessed by Dulwich College, but have
now, for the most part, disappeared. Among the articles of dress
enumerated appear "Longshanks' suit;" "Tamberlane's breeches of
crimson velvet," and the same hero's "coat with coper lace;" "Harye
the Fifth's velvet gown and satin doublet, laid with gold lace;"
Dido's robe and Juno's frock; Robin Hood's hat and green coat; and
Merlin's gown and cape. Then there are gowns and caps for senators,
suits for torchbearers and janissaries, shepherds' coats, yellow
leather doublets for clowns, robes of rich taffety and damask, suits
of russet and of frieze, fools' caps and bells, cloth of gold, French
hose, surplices, shirts, farthingales, jerkins, and white cotton
stockings. From another document, the cost of theatrical apparel may
be fairly estimated. A list headed: "Note of all such goods as I have
bought for the company of my Lord Admiral's men, since the 3rd April,
1598," has the sum paid for each article plainly stated, and contains
such items as: "Bought a damask cassock, garded with velvet, eighteen
shillings;" "bought a payer of paned rownd hose of cloth, whiped with
silk, drawn out with taffety, and one payer of long black woollen
stockens, eight shillings;" "bought a robe for to go invisibell and a
gown for Nembia, three pounds ten shillings" (Malone conjecturing that
the mysterious "robe for to go invisibell" pertained to some drama in
which the wearer of the garment specified was supposed to be unseen by
the rest of the performers); "bought a doublet of white satten layd
thick with gold lace, and a pair of rowne paned hose of cloth of
silver, the panes layd with gold lace, seven pounds ten shillings,"
and so on.

Alleyn's inventory still exists, or did exist very recently, in his
own handwriting, at Dulwich College; it is without heading or date,
and relates almost exclusively to the dresses worn by himself in his
personation of various characters upon the stage. It is of interest,
seeing that it demonstrates the assumption by Alleyn of various parts,
if not in Shakespeare's plays, at any rate in the earlier dramas upon
which the poet founded certain of his noblest works. Thus the actor's
list makes mention of "a scarlet cloke with two brode gould laces with
gould down the same, for Leir"--meaning, doubtless, "King Lear;" "a
purple satin cloke, welted with velvett and silver twist, Romeo's;"
"Hary the VIII. gowne;" "blew damask cote for the Moor in Venis;" and
"spangled hoes in Pericles." Such entries as "Faustus jerkin and
cloke," "Priams hoes in Dido," and "French hose for the Guises,"
evidence that the actor took part in Marlowe's "Faustus" and "Massacre
of Paris," and the tragedy of "Dido," by Marlowe and Nash. Then there
are cloaks and gowns, striped and trimmed with gold lace and ermine,
suits of crimson, and orange-tawny velvet, cloth of gold and silver,
jerkins and doublets of satin taffety and velvet, richly embroidered,
and hose of various hues and patterns. The actor's wardrobe was
clearly most costly and complete, and affords sufficient proof that
theatrical costumes generally, even at that early date, were of a
luxurious nature. In considering the prices mentioned in Henslowe's
list, the high value of money in his time should of course be borne in

It is plain, however, that splendour was much more considered than
appropriateness of dress. Some care might be taken to provide Robin
Hood with a suit of Lincoln green; to furnish hoods and frocks for
friars and royal robes for kings; but otherwise actors, dramatists,
and audience demanded only that costly and handsome apparel should
appear upon the scene. Indeed, the desire for correctness of dress
upon the stage is of modern origin. Still, now and then may be found,
even in very early days, some inclination towards carefulness in this
respect; as when, in 1595, Thomas Nevile, Vice-Chancellor of the
University of Cambridge, applied to Lord Treasurer Burghley for the
loan of the royal robes in the Tower, in order to perform, "for the
exercise of young gentlemen and scholars in our college," certain
comedies and one tragedy, in which "sondry personages of greatest
estate were to be represented in ancient princely attire, which is
nowhere to be had but within the office of the roabes of the Tower."
This request, it seems, had been granted before, and probably was
again complied with on this occasion. Indeed, at a much later date
there was borrowing from the stores of the Tower for the decoration of
the stage; as Pope writes:

    Back fly the scenes and enter foot and horse:
    Pageant on pageants in long order drawn,
    Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold, and lawn;
    The champion, too! And to complete the jest,
    Old Edward's armour beams on Cibber's breast.

By way of reflecting the glories of the coronation of George II.,
"Henry VIII.," with a grand spectacle of a coronation, had been
presented at the theatres, the armour of one of the kings of England
having been brought from the Tower for the due accoutrement of the
champion. And here we may note a curious gravitation of royal finery
towards the theatre. Downes, in his "Roscius Anglicanus," describes
Sir William Davenant's play of "Love and Honour," produced in 1662, as
"richly cloathed, the king giving Mr. Betterton his coronation suit,
in which he acted the part of Prince Alvaro; the Duke of York giving
Mr. Harris his, who did Prince Prospero; and my lord of Oxford gave
Mr. Joseph Price his, who did Lionel, the Duke of Parma's son."
Presently we find the famous Mrs. Barry acting Queen Elizabeth in the
coronation robes of James II.'s queen, who had before presented the
actress with her wedding suit. Mrs. Barry is said to have given her
audience a strong idea of Queen Elizabeth. Mrs. Bellamy played
Cleopatra in a silver tissue "birthday" dress that had belonged to the
Princess of Wales; and a suit of straw-coloured satin, from the
wardrobe of the same illustrious lady, was worn by the famous Mrs.
Woffington, in her performance of Roxana. The robes worn by Elliston,
when he personated George IV., and represented the coronation of that
monarch upon the stage of Drury Lane, were probably not the originals.
These became subsequently the property of Madame Tussaud, and long
remained among the treasures of her waxwork exhibition in Baker
Street. A tradition prevails that Elliston's robes were carried to
America by Lucius Junius Booth, the actor, who long continued to
assume them in his personation of Richard III., much to the
astonishment of the more simple-minded of his audience, who naively
inquired of each other whether the sovereigns of Great Britain were
really wont to parade the streets of London in such attire? Among
other royal robes that have likewise descended to the stage, mention
may also be made of the coronation dress of the late Queen Adelaide,
of which Mrs. Mowatt, the American actress, became the ultimate

Many noblemen and fine gentlemen also favoured the actors with gifts
of their cast clothes, and especially of those "birthday suits"--Court
dresses of great splendour, worn for the first time at the birthday
levees, or drawing-rooms of the sovereign. As Pope writes:

    Or when from Court a birthday suit bestowed,
    Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.

Indeed, to some of the clothes worn by actors a complete history is
attached. The wardrobe of Munden, the comedian, contained a black
Genoa velvet coat, which had once belonged to King George II.; while
another coat boasted also a distinguished pedigree, and could be
traced to Francis, Duke of Bedford, who had worn it on the occasion of
the Prince of Wales's marriage. It had originally cost £1000! But then
it had been fringed with precious stones, of which the sockets only
remained when it fell into the hands of the dealers in second-hand
garments; but, even in its dilapidated state, Munden had given £40 for
it. Usually, however, fine clothes, such as "birthday suits," became
the property rather of the tragedians than the comedians. Cibber
describes the division on the subject of dress, existing in the
"Commonwealth" company, of which he formed a member, in 1696. "The
tragedians," he writes, "seemed to think their rank as much above the
comedians as the characters they severally acted; when the first were
in their finery, the latter were impatient at the expense, and looked
upon it as rather laid out upon the real than the fictitious person of
the actor. Nay, I have known in our company this ridiculous sort of
regret carried so far that the tragedian has thought himself injured
when the comedian pretended to wear a fine coat." Powel, the
tragedian, surveying the dress worn by Cibber as Lord Foppington,
fairly lost his temper, and complained, in rude terms, that he had not
so good a suit in which to play Cæsar Borgia. Then, again, when
Betterton proposed to "mount" a tragedy, the comic actors were sure to
murmur at the cost of it. Dogget especially regarded with impatience
"the costly trains and plumes of tragedy, in which, knowing himself to
be useless, he thought they were all a vain extravagance." Tragedy,
however, was certainly an expensive entertainment at this time.
Dryden's "All for Love" had been revived at a cost of nearly £600 for
dresses--"a sum unheard of for many years before on a like occasion."
It was, by-the-way, the production of this tragedy, in preference to
his "adaptation" of Shakespeare's "Coriolanus," that so bitterly
angered Dennis, the critic, and brought about his fierce enmity to

To the hero of tragedy a feathered headdress was indispensable; the
heroine demanded a long train borne by one or two pages. Pope writes:

    Loud as the wolves on Orca's stormy steep
    Howl to the roarings of the northern deep,
    Such is the shout, the long-applauded note,
    At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat.

Hamlet speaks of a "forest of feathers" as part of an actor's
professional qualification. Addison, writing in "The Spectator" on the
methods of aggrandising the persons in tragedy, denounces as
ridiculous the endeavour to raise terror and pity in the audience by
the dresses and decorations of the stage, and takes particular
exception to the plumes of feathers worn by the conventional hero of
tragedy, rising "so very high, that there is often a greater length
from his chin to the top of his head than to the sole of his foot. One
would believe that we thought a great man and a tall man the same
thing." Then he describes the embarrassment of the actor, forced to
hold his neck extremely stiff and steady all the time he speaks, when,
"notwithstanding any anxieties which he pretends for his mistress, his
country, or his friends, one may see by his action that his greatest
care and concern is to keep the plume of feathers from falling off his
head." The hero's "superfluous ornaments" having been discussed, the
means by which the heroine is invested with grandeur are next
considered: "The broad sweeping train that follows her in all her
motions, finds constant employment for a boy who stands behind her, to
open and spread it to advantage. I do not know how others are affected
at this sight, but I must confess my eyes are wholly taken up with the
page's part; and as for the queen, I am not so attentive to anything
she speaks, as to the right adjusting of her train, lest it should
chance to trip up her heels, or incommode her as she walks to and fro
upon the stage. It is, in my opinion, a very odd spectacle to see a
queen venting her passion in a disordered motion, and a little boy
taking care all the while that they do not ruffle the tail of her
gown. The parts that the two persons act on the stage at the same time
are very different; the princess is afraid that she should incur the
displeasure of the king, her father, or lose the hero, her lover,
whilst her attendant is only concerned lest she should entangle her
feet in her petticoat." In the same way Tate Wilkinson, writing in
1790 of the customs of the stage, as he had known it forty years
before, describes the ladies as wearing large hoops and velvet
petticoats, heavily embossed and extremely inconvenient and
troublesome, with "always a page behind to hear the lovers' secrets,
and keep the train in graceful decorum. If two princesses," he
continues, "meet on the stage, with the frequent stage-crossings then
practised, it would now seem truly entertaining to behold a page
dangling at the tail of each heroine." The same writer, referring to
the wardrobe he possessed as manager of the York and Hull theatres,
describes the dresses as broadly seamed with gold and silver lace,
after a bygone fashion that earned for them the contempt of London
performers. "Yet," he proceeds, "those despicable clothes had, at
different periods of time, bedecked real lords and dukes," and were of
considerable value, if only to strip of their decorations and take to
pieces. He laments the general decline in splendour of dress, and
declares that thirty years before not a Templar, or decently-dressed
young man, but wore a rich gold-laced hat and scarlet waistcoat, with
a broad gold lace, also laced frocks for morning dress.

Monmouth Street, St. Giles's, is now known by another name; but for
many years its dealers in cast clothes rendered important aid to the
actors and managers. It was to Monmouth Street, as he confesses, that
Tate Wilkinson hastened, when permitted to undertake the part of the
Fine Gentleman in Garrick's farce of "Lethe," at Covent Garden. For
two guineas he obtained the loan, for one night only, of a heavy
embroidered velvet spangled suit of clothes, "fit," he says, "for the
king in 'Hamlet.'" Repeating the character, he was constrained to
depend upon the wardrobe of the theatre, and appeared in "a very short
old suit of clothes, with a black velvet ground and broad gold
flowers, as dingy as the twenty-four letters on a piece of gilded
gingerbread"--the dress, indeed, which Garrick had worn when playing
Lothario, in "The Fair Penitent," ten years before. And it was to
Monmouth Street that Austin repaired, when cast for a very inferior
part--a mere attendant--in the same tragedy, in order to equip himself
as like to Garrick as he could--for Garrick was to reappear as
Lothario in a new suit of clothes. "Where did you get that coat from,
Austin?" asked the great actor, surveying his subordinate. "Sir!"
replied Austin boldly, "it is part of my country wardrobe." The
manager paused, frowned, reflected. Soon he was satisfied that the
effect of Austin's dress would be injurious to his own, especially as
Austin was of superior physical proportions. "Austin," he said at
length, "why, perhaps you have some other engagement--besides, the
part is really beneath you. Altogether, I will not trouble you to go
on with me." And not to go on as an attendant upon Lothario was
precisely what Austin desired.

O'Keeffe, in his "Memoirs," has related a curious instance of the
prompt bestowal of an article of apparel upon an actor attached to the
Crow Street Theatre, Dublin. Macklin's farce of "The True-born
Irishman" was in course of performance for the first time. During what
was known as "the Drum Scene" ("a 'rout' in London is called a 'drum'
in Dublin," O'Keeffe explains),--when an actor, named Massink, had
entered as the representative of Pat FitzMongrel--a gentleman, who
with a large party occupied the stage-box, was seen to rise from his
chair, with the view, as it seemed, of interrupting the performance.
It should be stated that the gentleman was known to have recently
inherited a large fortune, and had evinced a certain eccentricity of
disposition. He was now of opinion that an attempt was being made to
personate him on the stage. "Why, that's me!" he cried aloud, pointing
to the figure of Pat FitzMongrel. "But what sort of a rascally coat is
that they've dressed me in! Here, I'll dress you, my man!" So saying
he stood up, divested himself of the rich gold-laced coat he wore, and
flung it on to the stage. "Massink took it up smiling, stepped to the
wing, threw off his own, and returned upon the stage in the
gentleman's fine coat, which produced the greatest amount of applause
and pleasure among the audience."

    To suit the dress demands the actor's art,
    Yet there are some who overdress the part.
    To some prescriptive right gives settled things--
    Black wigs to murderers, feathered hats to kings.
    But Michael Cassio might be drunk enough,
    Though all his features were not grimed with snuff.
    Why should Poll Peachum shine in satin clothes?
    Why every devil dance in scarlet hose?

Thus, in regard to the conventionalism of stage costumes, wrote
Churchill's friend, Robert Lloyd, in his poem of "The Actor," 1762.
And something he might have added touching the absurd old fashion of
robing the queens of tragedy invariably in black, for it seemed agreed
generally that "the sceptred pall of gorgeous tragedy" should be taken
very literally, and should "sweep by" in the funereal fashion of sable
velvet. "Empresses and queens," writes Mrs. Bellamy, the actress, in
1785, "always appeared in black velvet, with, upon extraordinary
occasions, the additional finery of an embroidered or tissue
petticoat; the younger actresses in cast gowns of persons of quality,
or altered habits rather soiled; whilst the male portion of the
_dramatis personæ_ strutted in tarnished laced coats and waistcoats,
full bottom or tie wigs, and black worsted stockings." Yet the lady
once ventured to appear as Lady Macbeth, and to wear the while a dress
of white satin. This took place at Edinburgh, and the startling
innovation was only to be accounted for by the fact that the wardrobes
of the actresses and of the company she had joined had been
accidentally consumed by fire. Some portion of the theatre had been
also destroyed, but boards were hastily nailed down and covered with
carpets, so as to form a temporary stage until the damage could be
repaired. Meantime appeal was made to the ladies of Edinburgh to lend
clothes to the "burnt out" actress, who estimated the loss of her
theatrical finery at £900, there being among the ashes of her property
"a complete set of garnets and pearls, from cap to stomacher." Dresses
of various kinds poured in, however. "Before six o'clock I found
myself in possession of above forty, and some of these almost new, as
well as very rich. Nor did the ladies confine themselves to outward
garments only. I received presents of all kinds and from every part of
the adjacent country." But inasmuch as "no black vestment of any kind
had been sent among the numerous ones of different colours which had
been showered upon me by the ladies," the necessity arose for dressing
Lady Macbeth for the very first time in white satin.

Mrs. Bellamy, according to her own account, had been wont to take
great pains and to exercise much good taste in regard to the costume
she assumed upon the stage. She claimed to have discarded hooped
skirts, while those unwieldy draperies were still greatly favoured by
other actresses, and to have adopted a style of dress remarkable for
an elegant simplicity then very new to the stage. Still, the lady has
freely admitted that she could be very gorgeous upon occasions; and
concerning one of two grand tragedy dresses she had obtained from
Paris, she has something of a history to narrate. The play was to be
the "Alexander" of Nat Lee; the rival actresses were to appear--Mrs.
Bellamy as Statira, and the famous Mrs. Woffington as Roxana. The
ladies did not love each other--rival actresses oftentimes do not love
each other--and each possessed a temper. Moreover, each was a beauty:
Mrs. Woffington, a grand brunette, dark browed, with flashing eyes
and stately mien: Mrs. Bellamy, a blonde, blue-eyed and
golden-haired--an accomplished actress, if an affected one. Now, Mrs.
Bellamy's grand dress of deep yellow satin, with a robe of rich purple
velvet, was found to have a most injurious effect upon the delicate
straw-coloured skirts of Mrs. Woffington; they seemed to be reduced to
a dirty white hue. The ladies fairly quarrelled over their dresses. At
length, if we may adopt Mrs. Bellamy's account of the proceeding, Mrs.
Woffington's rage was so kindled "that it nearly bordered on madness.
When, oh! dire to tell! she drove me off the carpet and gave me the
_coup de grâce_ almost behind the scenes. The audience, who, I
believe, preferred hearing my last dying speech to seeing her beauty
and fine attitude, could not avoid perceiving her violence, and
testified their displeasure at it." Possibly the scene excited mirth
in an equal degree. Foote forthwith prepared a burlesque, "The
Green-room Squabble; or, A Battle Royal between the Queen of Babylon
and the Daughter of Darius." The same tragedy, it may be noted, had at
an earlier date been productive of discord in the theatre. Mrs. Barry,
as Roxana, had indeed stabbed her Statira, Mrs. Boutell, with such
violence that the dagger, although the point was blunted, "made its
way through Mrs. Boutell's stays and entered about a quarter of an
inch into the flesh." It is not clear, however, that this contest,
like the other, is to be attributed to antagonism in the matter of

The characteristics of the "tiring-room" have always presented
themselves in a ludicrous light to the ordinary observer. There is
always a jumble of incongruous articles, and a striking contrast
between the ambitious pretensions of things and their real
meanness--between the facts and fictions of theatrical life. Mr.
Collier quotes from Brome's comedy, "The Antipodes," 1640, a curious
account of the contents of the "tiring-house" of that time. Byeplay,
an actor, one of the characters, is speaking of the hero Peregrine,
who is in some sort a reflection of Don Quixote:

    He has got into our tiring-house amongst us,
    And ta'en a strict survey of all our properties.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Whether he thought 'twas some enchanted castle,
    Or temple hung and piled with monuments
    Of uncouth and of varied aspects,
    I dive not to his thoughts....
    But on a sudden, with thrice knightly force,
    And thrice thrice puissant arm, he snatched down
    The sword and shield that I played Bevis with;
    Rusheth among the foresaid properties,
    Kills monster after monster, takes the puppets
    Prisoners, knocks down the Cyclops, tumbles all
    Our jigambobs and trinkets to the wall.
    Spying at last the crown and royal robes
    I' the upper wardrobe, next to which by chance,
    The devils vizors hung and their flame-painted
    Skin-coats, these he removed with greater fury,
    And (having cut the infernal ugly faces
    All into mammocks), with a reverend hand
    He takes the imperial diadem, and crowns
    Himself King of the Antipodes and believes
    He has justly gained the kingdom by his conquest.

A later dealing with the same subject may be quoted from Dr.
Reynardson's poem of "The Stage," dedicated to Addison, and first
published in 1713:

    High o'er the stage there lies a rambling frame,
    Which men a garret vile, but players the tire-room name:
    Here all their stores (a merry medley) sleep
    Without distinction, huddled in a heap.
    Hung on the self-same peg, in union rest
    Young Tarquin's trousers and Lucretia's vest,
    Whilst, without pulling coifs, Roxana lays,
    Close by Statira's petticoat, her stays....
    Near these sets up a dragon-drawn calash;
    There's a ghost's doublet, delicately slashed,
    Bleeds from the mangled breast and gapes a frightful gash....
    Here Iris bends her various-painted arch,
    There artificial clouds in sullen order march;
    Here stands a crown upon a rack, and there
    A witch's broomstick, by great Hector's spear:
    Here stands a throne, and there the cynic's tub,
    Here Bullock's cudgel, and there Alcides' club.
    Beards, plumes, and spangles in confusion rise,
    Whilst rocks of Cornish diamonds reach the skies;
    Crests, corslets, all the pomp of battle join
    In one effulgence, one promiscuous shine.
    Hence all the drama's decorations rise,
    Hence gods descend majestic from the skies.
    Hence playhouse chiefs, to grace some antique tale,
    Buckle their coward limbs in warlike mail, &c. &c.

Of the theatrical wardrobe department of to-day it is unnecessary to
say much. Something of the bewildering incongruity of the old
"tiring-room" distinguishes it--yet with a difference. The system of
the modern theatre has undergone changes. Wardrobes are now often
hired complete from the costume and masquerade shops. The theatrical
costumier has become an independent functionary, boasting an
establishment of his own, detached from the theatre. Costume plays are
not much in vogue now, and in dramas dealing with life and society at
the present date, the actors are understood to provide their own
attire. Moreover, there is now little varying of the programme, and,
in consequence, little demand upon the stock wardrobe of the
playhouse. Still, when in theatres of any pretension, entertainments
in the nature of spectacles or pantomimes are in course of
preparation, there is much stir in the wardrobe department. There are
bales of cloth to be converted into apparel for the supernumeraries,
yards and yards of gauze and muslin for the ballet; spangles, and
beads, and copper lace in great profusion; with high piles of white
satin shoes. Numerous stitchers of both sexes are at work early and
late, while from time to time an artist supervises their labours. His
aid has been sought in the designing of the costumes, so that they may
be of graceful and novel devices in fanciful or eccentric plays, or
duly correct when an exhibition, depending at all upon the history of
the past, is about to be presented by the manager.



From the south-western corner of Lincoln's Inn Fields a winding and
confined court leads to Vere Street, Clare Market. Midway or so in the
passage there formerly existed Gibbon's Tennis Court--an establishment
which after the Restoration, and for some three years, served as a
playhouse; altogether distinct, be it remembered, from the far more
famous Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, situate close by in Portugal
Street, at the back of the College of Surgeons. Nevertheless, the Vere
Street Theatre, as it was called, can boast something of a history; at
any rate, one event of singular dramatic importance renders it
memorable. For on Saturday, the 8th of December, 1660, as historians
of the drama relate, it was the scene of the first appearance upon the
English stage of the first English actress. The lady played Desdemona;
and a certain Mr. Thomas Jordan, an actor and the author of various
poetical pieces, provided for delivery upon the occasion a "Prologue
to introduce the first woman that came to act on the stage in the
tragedy called 'The Moor of Venice.'"

So far the story is clear enough. But was this Desdemona really the
first English actress? Had there not been earlier change in the old
custom prescribing that the heroines of the British drama should be
personated by boys? It is certain that French actresses had appeared
here so far back as 1629. Prynne, in his "Histriomastix," published in
1633, writes: "They have now their female players in Italy and other
foreign parts, and Michaelmas, 1629, they had French women-actors in
a play personated at Blackfriars, to which there was great resort."
These ladies, however, it may be noted, met with a very unfavourable
reception. Prynne's denunciation of them was a matter of course. He
had undertaken to show that stage-plays of whatever kind were most
"pernicious corruptions," and that the profession of "play-poets" and
stage-players, together with the penning, acting, and frequenting of
stage-plays, was unlawful, infamous, and misbecoming Christians. He
speaks of the "women-actors" as "monsters," and applies most severe
epithets to their histrionic efforts: "impudent," "shameful,"
"unwomanish," and such like. Another critic, one Thomas Brande, in a
private letter discovered by Mr. Payne Collier in the library of
Lambeth Palace, and probably addressed to Laud while Bishop of London,
writes of the just offence to all virtuous and well-disposed persons
in this town "given by the vagrant French players who had been
expelled from their own country," and adds: "Glad am I to say they
were hissed, hooted, and pippin-pelted" (pippin-pelted is a good
phrase) "from the stage, so as I do not think they will soon be ready
to try the same again." Mr. Brande was further of opinion that the
Master of the Revels should have been called to account for permitting
such performances. Failing at Blackfriars, the French company
subsequently appeared at the Fortune and Red Bull Theatres, but with a
similar result, insomuch that the Master of the Revels, Sir Henry
Herbert, who had duly sanctioned their performance, records in his
accounts that, "in respect of their ill luck," he had returned some
portion of the fees they had paid him for permission to play.

Whether these French "women-actors" failed because of their sex or
because of their nationality, cannot now be shown. They were the first
actresses that had ever been seen in this country. But then they were
not of English origin, and they appeared, of course, in a foreign
drama. Still, of English actresses antecedent to the Desdemona of the
Vere Street Theatre, certain traces have been discovered. In Brome's
comedy of "The Court Beggar," acted at the Cockpit Theatre, in 1632,
one of the characters observed: "If you have a short speech or two,
the boy's a pretty actor, and his mother can play her part;
women-actors now grow in request." Was this an allusion merely to the
French actresses that had been seen in London some few years before,
or were English actresses referred to? Had these really appeared, if
not at the public theatres, why, then, at more private dramatic
entertainments? Upon such points doubt must still prevail. It seems
certain, however, that a Mrs. Coleman had presented herself upon the
stage in 1656, playing a part in Sir William Davenant's tragedy of
"The Siege of Rhodes"--a work produced somehow in evasion of the
Puritanical ordinance of 1647, which closed the theatres and forbade
dramatic exhibitions of every kind; for "The Siege of Rhodes,"
although it consisted in a great measure of songs with recitative,
explained or illustrated by painted scenery, did not differ much from
an ordinary play. Ianthe, the heroine, was personated by Mrs. Coleman,
whose share in the performance was confined to the delivery of
recitative. Ten years later the lady was entertained at his house by
Mr. Pepys, who speaks in high terms both of her musical abilities and
of herself, pronouncing her voice "decayed as to strength, but mighty
sweet, though soft, and a pleasant jolly woman, and in mighty good

If this Mrs. Coleman may be classed rather as a singer than an
actress, and if we may view Davenant's "Siege of Rhodes" more as a
musical entertainment than as a regular play, then no doubt the claim
of the Desdemona of Clare Market to be, as Mr. Thomas Jordan described
her, "the first woman that came to act on the stage," is much
improved. And here we may say something more relative to the Vere
Street Theatre. It was first opened in the month of November, 1660;
Thomas Killigrew, its manager, and one of the grooms of the king's
bedchamber, having received his patent in the previous August, when a
similar favour was accorded to Sir William Davenant, who, during
Charles I.'s reign, had been possessed of letters patent. King Charles
II., taking it into his "princely consideration" that it was not
necessary to suppress the use of theatres, but that if the evil and
scandal in the plays then acted were taken away, they might serve "as
innocent and harmless divertisement" for many of his subjects, and
having experience of the art and skill of his trusty and well-beloved
Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant, granted them full power to
elect two companies of players, and to purchase, build and erect, or
hire, two houses or theatres, with all convenient rooms and other
necessaries thereunto appertaining, for the representation of
tragedies, comedies, plays, operas, and all other entertainments of
that nature. The managers were also authorised to fix such rates of
admission as were customary or reasonable "in regard of the great
expenses of scenes, music, and such new decorations as have not been
formerly used:" with full power "to make such allowances out of that
which they shall so receive to the actors and other persons employed
in the same representations, in both houses respectively, as they
shall think fit." For these patents other grants were afterwards
substituted, Davenant receiving his new letters on January 15th, and
Killigrew _his_ on April 25th, 1662. The new grants did not differ
much from the old ones, except that the powers vested in the patentees
were more fully declared. No other companies but those of the two
patentees were to be permitted to perform within the cities of London
and Westminster; all others were to be silenced and suppressed.
Killigrew's actors were styled the "Company of his Majesty and his
Royal Consort;" Davenant's the "Servants of his Majesty's
dearly-beloved brother, James, Duke of York." The better to preserve
"amity and correspondence" between the two theatres, no actor was to
be allowed to quit one company for the other without the consent of
his manager being first obtained. And forasmuch as many plays formerly
acted contained objectionable matter, and the women's parts therein
being acted by men in the habits of women, gave offence to some, the
managers were further enjoined to act no plays "containing any
passages offensive to piety and good manners, until they had first
corrected and purged the same;" and permission was given that all the
women's parts to be acted by either of the companies for the time to
come might be performed by women, so that recreations which, by reason
of the abuses aforesaid, were scandalous and offensive, might by such
reformation be esteemed not only harmless delights, but useful and
instructive representations of human life to such of "our good
subjects" as should resort to see the same.

These patents proved a cause of numberless dissensions in future
years. Practically they reduced the London theatres to two. Before the
Civil War there had been six: the Blackfriars and the Globe, belonging
to the same company, called the King's Servants; the Cockpit or
Phoenix, in Drury Lane, the actors of which were called the Queen's
Servants; a theatre in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, occupied by the
Prince's Servants; and the Fortune, in Golden Lane, and the Red Bull
in St. John Street, Clerkenwell--establishments for the lower class,
"mostly frequented by citizens and the meaner sort of people." Earlier
Elizabethan theatres, the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope, seem to have
closed their career some time in the reign of James I.

The introduction of actresses upon the English stage has usually been
credited to Sir William Davenant, whose theatre, however, did not open
until more than six months after the performance of "Othello," with an
actress in the part of Desdemona, at Killigrew's establishment in Vere
Street. "Went to Sir William Davenant's opera," records Pepys, on July
2nd, 1661, "this being the fourth day it had begun, and the first that
I have seen it." Although regular tragedies and comedies were acted
there, Pepys constantly speaks of Davenant's theatre as the _opera_,
the manager having produced various musical pieces before the
Restoration. Of the memorable performance of "Othello" in Vere Street,
on December 10th, 1660, Pepys makes no mention. He duly chronicles,
however, a visit to Killigrew's theatre on the following 3rd January,
when he saw the comedy of "The Beggar's Bush" performed; "it being
very well done, and was the first time that ever I saw women come upon
the stage." He had seen the same play in the previous November, when
it was represented by male performers only. But even after the
introduction of actresses the heroines of the stage were still
occasionally impersonated by men. Thus in January, 1661, Pepys saw
Kynaston appear in "The Silent Woman," and pronounced the young actor
"the prettiest woman in the whole house." As Cibber states, the stage
"could not be so suddenly supplied with women but that there was still
a necessity to put the handsomest young men into petticoats."

Strange to say, the name of the actress who played Desdemona under
Killigrew's management in 1660 has not been discovered. Who, then, was
the first English actress, assuming that she was the Desdemona of the
Vere Street Theatre? She must be looked for in Killigrew's company.
His "leading lady" was Mrs. Ann Marshall, of whom Pepys makes
frequent mention, who is known to have obtained distinction alike in
tragedy and in comedy, and to have personated such characters as the
heroine of Beaumont and Fletcher's "Scornful Lady," Roxana in
"Alexander the Great," Calphurnia in "Julius Cæsar," Evadne in "The
Maid's Tragedy," and so on; there is no record, however, of her having
appeared in the part of Desdemona. Indeed, this part is not invariably
assumed by "leading ladies;" it has occasionally devolved upon the
_seconda donna_ of the company. And in a representation of "Othello"
on February 6th, 1669, at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane (to which
establishment Killigrew and his troop had removed from Vere Street in
April, 1663), it is certain, on the evidence of Downes's "Roscius
Anglicanus," that a Mrs. Hughes played the part of Desdemona to the
Othello of Burt, the Iago of Mohun, and the Cassio of Hart. Now, was
this Mrs. Hughes, who had been a member of Killigrew's company from
the first, the Desdemona on whose behalf, nine years before, Mr.
Thomas Jordan wrote his apologetic prologue? It seems not unlikely. At
the same time it must be stated that there are other claimants to the
distinction. Tradition long pointed to Mrs. Betterton, the wife of the
famous tragedian, as the first woman who ever appeared on the English
stage. She was originally known as Mrs. Saunderson--the title of
Mistress being applied alike to maidens and matrons at the time of the
Restoration--and married her illustrious husband about the year 1663.
She was one of four principal actresses whom Sir William Davenant
lodged at his own house, and she appeared with great success as Ianthe
upon the opening of his theatre with "The Siege of Rhodes." Pepys,
indeed, repeatedly refers to her by her dramatic name of Ianthe. Has
the belief that she was the first actress arisen from confusing her
assumption of Ianthe with the performance of the same part by Mrs.
Coleman in 1656, a fact of which mention has already been made?
Otherwise it is hardly creditable that she, one of Davenant's
actresses, had been previously attached to Killigrew's company, and
had in such wise chanced to play Desdemona in Vere Street. There is no
evidence of this whatever, nor can it be discovered that she appeared
as Desdemona at any period of her career. The Vere Street Desdemona,
we repeat, must be looked for in Killigrew's company, which commenced
operations more than half a year before the rival theatre. It is true
that some time before the opening of this theatre Davenant had been
the responsible manager in regard to certain performances at the
Blackfriars Theatre and elsewhere; but there is no reason to suppose
that actresses took part in these entertainments; it is known, indeed,
that the feminine characters in the plays exhibited were sustained by
the young actors of the company--Kynaston, James Nokes, Angel, and
William Betterton. Altogether, Mrs. Betterton's title to honour as the
first English actress seems defective; and as much may be said of the
pretensions of another actress, Mrs. Norris, although she has met with
support from Tom Davies in his "Dramatic Miscellanies," and from Curl
in his "History of the Stage," a very unworthy production. Mrs. Norris
was an actress of small note attached to Davenant's company; she was
the mother of Henry Norris, a popular comedian, surnamed "Jubilee
Dicky," from his performance of the part of Dicky in Farquhar's
"Constant Couple." Chetwood correctly describes her as "ONE of the
first women that came on the stage as an actress." To her, as to Mrs.
Betterton, the objection applies that she was a member of Davenant's
company--not of Killigrew's--and therefore could not have appeared in
Vere Street. Moreover, she never attained such a position in her
profession as would have entitled her to assume a part of the
importance of Desdemona.

On the whole, the case of Mrs. Hughes seems to have the support of
more probabilities than any other. But even if it is to be accepted as
a fact that she was in truth the first actress, there the matter
remains. Very little is known of the lady. She lived in a world which
kept scarcely any count of its proceedings--which left no record
behind to be used as evidence, either for or against it. She was in
her time the subject of talk enough, very likely; was admired for her
beauty, possibly for her talents too; but hardly a written scrap
concerning her has come down to us. The ordinary historian of the
time, impressed with a sense of the dignity of his task, did not
concern himself with the players, and rated as insignificant and
unworthy of his notice such matters as the pursuits, pastimes, tastes,
manners, and customs of the people. We know more of the manner of life
in Charles II.'s time from the diarist Pepys than from all the writers
of history put together. Unfortunately, concerning Mrs. Hughes, even
Pepys is silent. It is known that in addition to the character of
Desdemona, which she certainly sustained in February, 1669, at any
rate, she also appeared as Panura, in Fletcher's "Island Princess,"
and as Theodosia, in Dryden's comedy of "An Evening's Love, or, The
Mock Astrologer," to the Jacyntha of Nell Gwynne; there is scarcely a
record of her assumption of any other part, unless she be the same
Mrs. Hughes who impersonated Mrs. Monylove, in a comedy called "Tom
Essence," produced at the Dorset Garden Theatre in 1676. But it is
believed that she quitted or was taken from her profession--was "erept
the stage," to employ old Downes's phrase--at an earlier date. The
famous Prince Rupert of the Rhine was her lover. He bought for her, at
a cost of £20,000, the once magnificent seat of Sir Nicholas Crispe,
near Hammersmith, which afterwards became the residence of the
Margrave of Brandenburg; and at a later date the retreat of Queen
Caroline, the wife of George IV. Ruperta, the daughter of Mrs. Hughes,
was married to Lieutenant-General Howe, and, surviving her husband
many years, died at Somerset House about 1740. In the "Memoirs" of
Count Grammont mention is found of Prince Rupert's passion for the
actress. She is stated to have "brought down and greatly subdued his
natural fierceness." She is described as an impertinent gipsy, and
accused of pride, in that she conducted herself, all things
considered, unselfishly, and even with some dignity. The King is said
to have been "greatly pleased with this event"--he was probably amused
at it; Charles II. was very willing at all times to be amused--"for
which great rejoicings" (why rejoicings?) "were made at Tunbridge; but
nobody was bold enough to make it the subject of satire, though the
same constraint was not observed with other ridiculous personages."
Upon the Prince the effect of his love seems to have been marked
enough. "From this time adieu alembics, crucibles, furnaces, and all
the black furniture of the forges; a complete farewell to all
mathematical instruments and chemical speculations; sweet powder and
essences were now the only ingredients that occupied any share of his
attention." Further of Mrs. Hughes there is nothing to relate, with
the exception of the use made of her name by the unseemly and
unsavoury Tom Brown in his "Letters from the Dead to the Living." Mrs.
Hughes and Nell Gwynne are supposed to address letters to each other,
exchanging reproaches in regard to the impropriety of their manner of
life. Nell Gwynne accuses her correspondent of squandering her money
and of gaming. "I am ashamed to think that a woman who had wit enough
to tickle a Prince out of so fine an estate should at last prove such
a fool as to be bubbled of it by a little spotted ivory and painted
paper." "Peg Hughes," as she is called, replies, congratulating
herself upon her generosity, treating the loss of her estate as "the
only piece of carelessness I ever committed worth my boast," and
charging "Madam Gwynne" with vulgar avarice and the love of "lucre of
base coin." We can glean nothing more of the story of Mrs. Hughes.

It is uncertain indeed in what degree the advent of the first actress
affected her audience; whether the novelty of the proceeding gratified
or shocked them the more. It was really a startling innovation--a
wonderful improvement as it seems to us; yet assuredly there were
numerous conservative playgoers who held fast to the old ways of the
theatre, and approved "boy-actresses"--not needing such aids to
illusion as the personation of women by women, but rather objecting
thereto, for the same reason that they deprecated the introduction of
scenery, because of appeal and stimulus to the imagination of the
audience becoming in such wise greatly and perilously reduced. Then of
course there were staid and sober folk who judged the profession of
the stage to be most ill-suited for women. And certainly this view of
the matter was much confirmed by the conduct of our earlier actresses,
which was indeed open to the gravest reproach. From Mr. Jordan's
prologue may be gathered some notion of the situation of the
spectators on the night, or rather the afternoon, of December 8th,
1660. The theatre was probably but a poor-looking structure, hastily
put together in the Tennis-court to serve the purpose of the manager
for a time merely. Seven years later, Tom Killigrew, talking to Mr.
Pepys, boasted that the stage had become "by his pains a thousand
times better and more glorious than ever before." There had been
improvement in the candles; the audience was more civilised; the
orchestra had been increased; the rushes had been swept from the
stage; everything that had been mean was now "all otherwise." The
manager possibly had in his mind during this retrospect the condition
of the Vere Street Theatre while under his management. The audience
possessed an unruly element. 'Prentices and servants filled the
gallery; there were citizens and tradesmen in the pit, with yet a
contingent of spruce gallants and scented fops, who combed their wigs
during the pauses in the performance, took snuff, ogled the ladies in
the boxes, and bantered the orange-girls. The prologue begins:

    I come, unknown to any of the rest,
    To tell the news: I saw the lady drest--
    The woman plays to-day; mistake me not,
    No man in gown or page in petticoat.

           *       *       *       *       *

    'Tis possible a virtuous woman may
    Abhor all sorts of looseness and yet play;
    Play on the stage--where all eyes are upon her:
    Shall we count that a crime France counts an honour?
    In other kingdoms husbands safely trust 'em.
    The difference lies only in the custom.

The gentlemen sitting in that "Star Chamber of the house, the pit,"
were then besought to think respectfully and modestly of the actress,
and not to run "to give her visits when the play is done." We have,
then, a picture of the male performers of female characters:

    But to the point: in this reforming age
    We have intent to civilise the stage.
    Our women are defective, and so sized
    You'd think they were some of the guard disguised;
    For, to speak truth, men act, that are between
    Forty and fifty, wenches of fifteen;
    With bone so large and nerve so incompliant.
    When you call Desdemona, _enter giant_.

The prologue concludes with a promise, which certainly was not kept,
that the drama should be purged of all offensive matter:

    And when we've put all things in this fair way,
    Barebones himself may come to see a play.

In the epilogue the spectators were asked: "How do you like
her?"--especial appeal being made to those among the audience of the
gentler sex:

    But, ladies, what think _you_? For if you tax
    Her freedom with dishonour to your sex,
    She means to act no more, and this shall be
    No other play but her own tragedy.
    She will submit to none but your commands,
    And take commission only from your hands.

The ladies, no doubt, applauded sufficiently, and "women-actors" from
that time forward became more and more secure of their position in the
theatre. At the same time it would seem that there lingered in the
minds of many a certain prejudice against them, and that some
apprehension concerning the reception they might obtain from the
audience often occupied the managers. A prologue to the second part of
Davenant's "Siege of Rhodes," acted in April, 1662, demonstrates that
the matter had still to be dealt with cautiously. Indulgence is
besought for the bashful fears of the actresses, and their shrinking
from the judgment and observation of the wits and critics is much
dwelt upon.

It is worthy of note that the leading actors who took part in the
representation of "Othello" at the Vere Street Theatre had all in
early life been apprentices to older players, and accustomed to
personate the heroines of the stage. Thus Burt, the Othello of the
cast, had served as a boy under the actors Shanke and Beeston at the
Blackfriars and Cockpit Theatres respectively. Mohun, the Iago, had
been his playfellow at this time; so that when Burt appeared as
Clariana in Shirley's tragedy of "Love's Cruelty," Mohun represented
Bellamonte in the same work. During the Civil War Mohun had drawn his
sword for the king, acquiring the rank of major, and acquitting
himself as a soldier with much distinction. He was celebrated by Lord
Rochester as the Æsopus of the stage; Nat Lee delighted in his acting,
exclaiming: "O Mohun, Mohun, thou little man of mettle, if I should
write a hundred plays, I'd write one for thy mouth!" And King Charles
ventured to pun upon his name as badly as even a king might when he
said of some representation: "Mohun (pronounce _Moon_) shone like a
sun; Hart like the moon!" Charles Hart, the Cassio of the Vere Street
Theatre, could boast descent from Shakespeare's sister Joan, and
described himself as the poet's great-nephew. He, too, fought for the
king in the great Civil War, serving as a lieutenant of horse under
Sir Thomas Dallison in Prince Rupert's regiment. He had been
apprenticed to Robinson the actor, and had played women's parts at the
Blackfriars Theatre, winning special renown by his performance of the
Duchess in Shirley's tragedy of "The Cardinal." As an actor Hart won
extraordinary admiration; he soon took the lead of Burt, and from his
physical gifts and graces was enabled even to surpass Mohun in
popularity. He introduced Nell Gwynne to the stage, and became one of
the sharers in the management and profits of the theatrical company to
which he was attached.

There was soon an ample supply of actresses, and a decline altogether
in the demand for boy-performers of female characters. There was an
absolute end, indeed, of that industry; the established actors had no
more apprentices, now to serve as their footboys and pages, and now as
heroines of tragedy and comedy. A modern playgoer may well have a
difficulty in believing that these had ever any real existence,
sharing Lamb's amazement at a boy-Juliet, a boy-Desdemona, a
boy-Ophelia. There must have been much skill among the players; much
simple good faith, contentment, and willingness to connive at
theatrical illusion on the part of the audience. It must have been
hard to tolerate a heroine with too obvious a beard, or of very
perceptible masculine breadth of shoulders, length of limb, and
freedom of gait. Let us note in conclusion that there is clearly a
"boy-actress" among the players welcomed by Hamlet to Elsinore,
although the modern stage has rarely taken note of the fact. The
player-queen, when not robed for performance in the tragedy of "The
Mousetrap," should wear a boy's dress. "What, my young lady and
mistress!" says Hamlet jestingly to the youthful apprentice; and he
adds allusion to the boy's increase of stature: "By'r lady, your
ladyship is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last by the altitude
of a _chopine!_"--in other words: "How the boy has grown!"--a chopine
being a shoe with a heel of inordinate height. And then comes
reference to that change of voice from alto to bass which attends
advance from boyhood to adolescence.



When the consummate villain of melodrama mysteriously approaches the
foot-lights, and, with a scowl at the front row of the pit, remarks:
"I must dissemble," or something to that effect, it is certain that he
is perfectly audible in all parts of the theatre in which he performs;
and yet it is required of the personages nearest to him on the
stage--let us say, the rival lover he has resolved to despatch and the
beauteous heroine he has planned to betray--that they should pretend
to be absolutely deaf to his observation, the manifest gravity of its
bearing upon their interests and future happiness notwithstanding.
Moreover, we who are among the spectators are bound to credit this
curious auricular infirmity on the part of the lover and the lady. We
can of course hear perfectly well the speech of their playfellow, and
are thoroughly aware that from their position they must of necessity
hear it at least as distinctly as we do. Yet it is incumbent upon us
to ignore our convictions and perceptions on this head. For, indeed,
the drama depends for its due existence and conduct upon a system of
connivance and conspiracy, in which the audience, no less than the
actors, are comprehended. The makeshifts and artifices of the theatre
have to be met half-way, and indulgently accepted.

The stage could not live without its whispers, which, after all, are
only whispers in a non-natural sense. For that can hardly be in truth
a whisper, which is designed to reach the ears of some hundreds of
persons. But the "asides" of the theatre are a convenient and
indispensable method of revealing to the audience the state of mind of
the speaker, and of admitting them to his confidence. The novelist can
stop his story, and indulge in analytical descriptions of his
characters, their emotions, moods, intentions, and opinions; but the
dramatist can only make his creatures intelligible by means of the
speeches he puts into their mouths. So, for the information of the
audience and the carrying on of the business of the scene, we have
soliloquies and asides, the artful delivery of which, duly to secure
attention and enlist sympathy, evokes the best abilities of the
player, bound to invest with an air of nature and truth-seeming purely
fictitious and unreasonable proceedings.

But there are other than these recognised and established whispers of
the stage. Voices are occasionally audible in the theatre which
obviously were never intended to reach the public ear. The existence
of such a functionary as the prompter may be one of those things which
are "generally known;" but the knowledge should not come, to those who
sit in front of the curtain, from any exercise of their organs of
sight or of sound. To do the prompter justice, he is rarely visible;
but his tones, however still and small they may pretend to be,
sometimes travel to those whom they do not really concern. One of the
first scraps of information acquired by the theatrical student relates
to the meaning of the letters P.S. and O.P. Otherwise he might,
perhaps, have some difficulty in comprehending the apparently magnetic
attraction which one particular side of the proscenium has for so many
of our players. We say _our_ players advisedly, for the position of
the prompter is different on the foreign stage. Abroad, and, indeed,
during alien and lyrical performances in this country, he is hidden in
a sort of gipsy-tent in front of the desk of the conductor. The
accommodation provided for him is limited enough; little more than his
head can be permitted to emerge from the hole cut for him in the
stage. But his situation has its advantages. He cannot possibly be
seen by the audience; he can conveniently instruct the performers
without requiring them "to look off" appealingly, or to rush
desperately to the wing to be reminded of their parts; while the
sloping roof of his temporary abode has the effect of directing his
whispers on to the stage, and away from the spectators. It seems
strange that this system of posting the prompter in the van instead
of on the flank of the actors has never been permanently adopted in
this country. But a change of the kind indicated would certainly be
energetically denounced by a number of very respectable and sensible
people as "un-English," an objection that is generally regarded as
quite final and convincing, although it is conceivable, at any rate,
that a thing may be of fair value and yet of foreign origin. "Gad,
sir, if a few very sensible persons had been attended to we should
still have been champing acorns!" observed Luttrell the witty, when
certain enlightened folk strenuously opposed the building of Waterloo
Bridge on the plea that it would spoil the river!

It is certain, however, that with the first introduction here of
operatic performances came the gipsy-tent, or hut, of the prompter.
The singers voted it quite indispensable. It was much ridiculed, of
course, by the general public. It was even made the special subject of
burlesque on a rival stage. A century ago the imbecility was indulged
in of playing "The Beggar's Opera" with "the characters reversed," as
it was called; that is to say, the female characters were assumed by
the actors, the male by the actresses. This was at the Haymarket
Theatre, under George Colman's management. The foolish proceeding won
prodigious applause. A prologue or preliminary act in three scenes was
written for the occasion. The fun of this introduction seems now gross
and flat enough. Towards the conclusion of it, we read, a
stage-carpenter raised his head through a trap in the centre of the
stage. He was greeted with a roar of laughter from the gallery. The
prompter appears on the scene and demands of the carpenter what he
means by opening the trap? The carpenter explains that he designs to
prompt the performers after the fashion of the Opera House on the
other side of the Haymarket. "Psha!" cries the prompter, "none of your
Italian tricks with me! Shut up the trap again! I shall prompt in my
old place; for we won't do all they do on the other side of the way
till they can do all we do on ours." So soundly English a speech is
received with great cheering--the foreigners and their new-fangled
ways are laughed to scorn, and the performance is a very complete

To singers, the convenient position of the prompter is a matter of
real importance. Their memories are severely tried, for, in addition
to the words, they have to bear in mind the music of their parts.
While delivering their scenas they are compelled to remain almost
stationary, well in front of the stage, so that their voices may be
thrown towards their audience and not lose effect by escaping into the
flies. Meanwhile their hasty movement towards a prompter in the wings,
upon any sudden forgetfulness of the words of their songs, would be
most awkward and unseemly. It is very necessary that their prompter
and their conductor should be their near neighbours, able to render
them assistance and support upon the shortest notice. But this
proximity of the prompter has, perhaps, induced them to rely too much
upon his help, and to burden their memories too little. The majority
of singers are but indifferently acquainted with the words they are
required to utter. They gather these as they want them, from the
hidden friend in his hutch at their feet. The occupants of the
proscenium boxes at the opera-houses must be familiarly acquainted
with the tones of the prompter's voice, as he delivers to the singers,
line by line, the matter of their parts; and occasionally these stage
whispers are audible at a greater distance from the foot-lights. In
operatic performances, however, the words are of very inferior
importance to the music; the composer quite eclipses the author. A
musician has been known to call a libretto the "verbiage" of his
opera. The term was not perhaps altogether inappropriate. Even actors
are apt to underrate the importance of the speeches they are called
upon to deliver, laying the greater stress upon the "business" they
propose to originate, or the scenic effects that are to be introduced
into the play. They sometimes describe the words of their parts as
"cackle." But perhaps this term also may be accepted as applying,
fitly enough, to much of the dialogue of the modern drama.

It is a popular notion that, although all persons may not be endowed
with histrionic gifts, it is open to everybody to perform the duties
of a prompter without preparation or study. Still the office requires
some exercise of care and judgment. "Here's a nice mess you've got me
into," said once a tragedian, imperfect in his text, to an
inexperienced or incautious prompter. "What am I to do now? Thanks to
you, I've been and spoken all the next act!" And the prompter has a
task of serious difficulty before him when the actors are but
distantly acquainted with their parts, or "shy of the syls," that is,
syllables, as they prefer to describe their condition. "Where have
they got to now?" he has sometimes to ask himself, when he finds them
making havoc of their speeches, missing their cues, and leading him a
sort of steeple-chase through the book of the play. It is the golden
rule of the player who is "stuck"--at a loss for words--to "come to
Hecuba," or pass to some portion of his duty which he happens to bear
in recollection. "What's the use of bothering about a handful of
words?" demanded a veteran stroller. "I never stick. I always say
something and get on, and no one has hissed me yet!" It was probably
this performer, who, during his impersonation of Macbeth, finding
himself at a loss as to the text soon after the commencement of his
second scene with Lady Macbeth, coolly observed: "Let us retire,
dearest chuck, and con this matter over in a more sequestered spot,
far from the busy haunts of men. Here the walls and doors are spies,
and our every word is echoed far and near. Come, then, let's away!
False heart must hide, you know, what false heart dare not show." A
prompter could be of little service to a gentleman so fertile in
resources. He may be left to pair off with that provincial Montano who
modernised his speech in reference to Cassio:

    And 'tis great pity that the noble Moor
    Should hazard such a place as his own second
    With one of an ingraft infirmity.
    It were an honest action to say
    So to the Moor--

into "It's a pity, don't you think, that Othello should place such a
man in such an office. Hadn't we better tell him so, sir?"

In small provincial or strolling companies it often becomes expedient
to press every member of the establishment into the service of the
stage. We read of a useful property-man and scene-shifter who was
occasionally required to fill small parts in the performance, such,
for instance, as "the cream-faced loon" in "Macbeth," and who thus
explained his system of representation, admitting that from his other
occupations he could rarely commit perfectly to memory the words he
was required to utter. "I tell you how I manage. I inwariably
contrives to get a reg'lar knowledge of the natur' of the
_char_-ac-ter, and ginnerally gives the haudience words as near like
the truth as need be. I seldom or never puts any of you out, and takes
as much pains as anybody can expect for two-and-six a week extra,
which is all I gets for doing such-like parts as mine. I finds
Shakespeare's parts worse to get into my head nor any other; he goes
in and out so to tell a thing. I should like to know how I was to say
all that rigmarole about the wood coming; and I'm sure my telling
Macbeth as Birnam Wood was a-walking three miles off the castle, did
very well. But some gentlemen is sadly pertickler, and never considers

Such players as this provoke the despair of prompters, who must often
be tempted to close their books altogether. It would almost seem that
there are some performers whom it is quite vain to prompt: it is safer
to let them alone, doing what they list, lest bad should be made
worse. Something of this kind happened once in the case of a certain
Marcellus. Hamlet demands of Horatio concerning the ghost of "buried
Denmark:" "Stayed it long?" Horatio answers: "While one with moderate
haste might tell a hundred." Marcellus should add: "Longer, longer."
But the Marcellus of this special occasion was mute. "Longer, longer,"
whispered the prompter. Then out spoke Marcellus, to the consternation
of his associates: "Well, say two hundred!" So prosaic a Marcellus is
only to be matched by that literal Guildenstern who, when besought by
Hamlet to "Play upon this pipe," was so moved by the urgent manner of
the tragedian, that he actually made the attempt, seizing the
instrument, and evoking from it most eccentric sounds.

It is curious how many of the incidents and details of representation
escape the notice of the audience. And here we are referring less to
merits than to mischances. Good acting may not always obtain due
recognition; but then how often bad acting and accidental deficiencies
remain undetected! "We were all terribly out, but the audience did not
see it," actors will often candidly admit. Although we in front
sometimes see and hear things we should not, some peculiarity of our
position blinds and deafens us too much. Our eyes are beguiled into
accepting age for youth, shabbiness for finery, tinsel for splendour.
Garrick frankly owned that he had once appeared upon the stage so
inebriated as to be scarcely able to articulate, but "his friends
endeavoured to stifle or cover this trespass with loud applause," and
the majority of the audience did not perceive that anything
extraordinary was the matter. What happened to Garrick on that
occasion has happened to others of his profession. And our ears do not
catch much of what is uttered on the stage. Young, the actor, used to
relate that on one occasion, when playing the hero of "The Gamester"
to the Mrs. Beverley of Sarah Siddons, he was so overcome by the
passion of her acting as to be quite unable to proceed with his part.
There was a long pause, during which the prompter several times
repeated the words which Beverley should speak. Then "Mrs. Siddons
coming up to her fellow-actor, put the tips of her fingers upon his
shoulders, and said, in a low voice, 'Mr. Young, recollect yourself.'"
Yet probably from the front of the house nothing was seen or heard of
this. In the same way the players will sometimes prompt each other
through whole scenes, interchange remarks as to necessary adjustments
of dress, or instructions as to "business" to be gone through, without
exciting the attention of the audience. Kean's pathetic whisper, "I am
dying, speak to them for me," when, playing for the last time, he sank
into the arms of his son, was probably not heard across the orchestra.

Mrs. Fanny Kemble, in her "Journal" of her Tour in America, gives an
amusing account of a performance of the last scene of "Romeo and
Juliet," not as it seemed to the spectators, but as it really was,
with the whispered communications of the actors. Romeo, at the words
"Quick, let me snatch thee to thy Romeo's arms," pounced upon his
playfellow, plucked her up in his arms "like an uncomfortable bundle,"
and staggered down the stage with her. Juliet whispers; "Oh, you've
got me up horridly! That'll never do; let me down! Pray let me down!"
But Romeo proceeds, from the acting version of the play, be it

    There, breathe a vital spirit on thy lips,
    And call thee back, my soul, to life and love!

Juliet continues to whisper: "Pray put me down; you'll certainly throw
me down if you don't set me on the ground directly." "In the midst of
'cruel, cursed fate,' his dagger fell out of his dress. I, embracing
him tenderly, crammed it back again, because I knew I should want it
at the end." The performance thus went on:

    ROMEO. Tear not my heart-strings thus!
    They break! they crack! Juliet! Juliet!

    JULIET (_to corpse_). Am I smothering you?

    CORPSE. Not at all. But could you, do you think, be so kind as to put
    my wig on again for me? It has fallen off.

    JULIET (_to corpse_). I'm afraid I can't, but I'll throw my muslin
    veil over it. You've broken the phial, haven't you? (_Corpse

    JULIET (_to corpse_). Where's your dagger?

    CORPSE (_to Juliet_). 'Pon my soul I don't know.

The same vivacious writer supplies a corresponding account of the
representation of "Venice Preserved," in which, of course, she
appeared as Belvidera. "When I went on, I was near tumbling down at
the sight of my Jaffier, who looked like the apothecary in 'Romeo and
Juliet,' with the addition of some devilish red slashes along his
thighs and arms. The first scene passed off well, but, oh! the next,
and the next to that! Whenever he was not glued to my side (and that
was seldom), he stood three yards behind me; he did nothing but seize
my hand and grapple it so hard that, unless I had knocked him down
(which I felt much inclined to try), I could not disengage myself. In
the senate scene, when I was entreating for mercy, and struggling, as
Otway has it, for my life, he was prancing round the stage in every
direction, flourishing his dagger in the air. I wish to heaven I had
got up and run away: it would have been natural, and have served him
extremely right. In the parting scene--oh, what a scene it
was!--instead of going away from me when he said, 'Farewell for ever!'
he stuck to my skirts, though in the same breath that I adjured him,
in the words of my part, not to leave me, I added, aside, 'Get away
from me, oh do!' When I exclaimed, 'Not one kiss at parting!' he kept
embracing and kissing me like mad, and when I ought to have been
pursuing him, and calling after him, 'Leave thy dagger with me!' he
hung himself up against the wing, and remained dangling there for five
minutes. I was half crazy. I prompted him constantly, and once, after
struggling in vain to free myself from him, was obliged, in the middle
of my part, to exclaim, 'You hurt me dreadfully, Mr. ----.' He clung to
me, cramped me, crumpled me--dreadful! I never experienced anything
like this before, and made up my mind that I never would again."

Yet the ludicrous imperfections of this performance passed unnoticed
by the audience. The applause seems to have been unbounded, and the
Jaffier of the night was even honoured by a special call before the

There is hardly necessity for further record of the curiosities of
stage whispers; but here is a story of a _sotto voce_ communication
which must have gravely troubled its recipient. A famous Lady Macbeth,
"starring" in America, had been accidentally detained on her journey
to a remote theatre. She arrived in time only to change her dress
rapidly and hurry on the scene. The performers were all strangers to
her. At the conclusion of her first soliloquy, a messenger should
enter to announce the coming of King Duncan. But what was her
amazement to hear, in answer to her demand, "What is your tidings?"
not the usual reply, "The king comes here to-night," but the whisper,
spoken from behind a Scotch bonnet, upheld to prevent the words
reaching the ears of the audience, "Hush! I'm Macbeth. We've cut the
messenger out--go on, please!"

Another disconcerted performer must have been the provincial Richard
III., to whom the Ratcliffe of the theatre--who ordinarily played
harlequin, and could not enter without something of that tripping and
twirling gait peculiar to pantomime--brought the information, long
before it was due, that "the Duke of Buckingham is taken!" "Not yet,
you fool," whispered Richard. "Beg pardon; thought he was," cried
Harlequin Ratcliffe, as, carried away by his feelings or the force of
habit, he threw what tumblers call "a Catherine wheel," and made a
rapid exit.

We conclude with noting a stage whisper of an old-established and yet
most mysterious kind. In a book of recent date dealing with theatrical
life, we read that the words "John Orderly" uttered by the proprietor
of a strolling theatre, behind the scenes, or in the wings of his
establishment, constitute a hint to the players to curtail the
performances and allow the curtain to fall as soon as may be. Who was
"John Orderly," and how comes his name to be thus used as a watchword?
The Life of Edwin the actor, written by (to quote Macaulay) "that
filthy and malignant baboon, John Williams, who called himself
Anthony Pasquin," and published late in the last century, contains the
following passage: "When theatric performers intend to abridge an act
or play, they are accustomed to say, we will 'John Audley' it. It
originated thus: In the year 1749, Shuter was master of a booth at
Bartholomew Fair in West Smithfield, and it was his mode to lengthen
the exhibition until a sufficient number of persons were gathered at
the door to fill the house. This event was signified by a fellow
popping his head in at the gallery door and bellowing out 'John
Audley!' as if in the act of inquiry, though the intention was to let
Shuter know that a fresh audience were in high expectation below. The
consequence of this notification was that the entertainments were
instantly concluded, and the gates of the booth thrown open for a new
auditory." That "John Audley" should be in time corrupted into "John
Orderly," is intelligible enough. We don't look to the showman or the
strolling manager for nicety or correctness of pronunciation. But
whether such a person as John Audley ever existed, who he was, and
what he did, that his name should be handed down in this way, from
generation to generation, we are still left inquiring.



The ghost, as a vehicle of terror, a solvent of dramatic difficulties,
and a source of pleasurable excitement to theatrical audiences, seems
to have become quite an extinct creature. As Bob Acres said of
"damns," ghosts "have had their day;" or perhaps it would be more
correct to say, their night. It may be some consolation to them,
however, in their present fallen state, to reflect that they were at
one time in the enjoyment of an almost boundless prosperity and
popularity. For long years they were accounted among the most precious
possessions of the stage. Addison writes in "The Spectator": "Among
the several artifices which are put in practice by the poets, to fill
the minds of the audience with terror, the first place is due to
thunder and lightning, which are often made use of at the descending
of a god, at the vanishing of a devil, or at the death of a tyrant. I
have known a bell introduced into several tragedies with good effect,
and have seen the whole assembly in very great alarm all the while it
has been ringing. But there is nothing which delights and terrifies
our English theatre so much as a ghost, especially when he appears in
a bloody shirt. A spectre has very often saved a play, though he has
done nothing but stalked solemnly across the stage, or rose through a
cleft in it and sunk again without speaking one word. There may be a
proper season for these several terrors, and when they only come in as
aids and assistances to the poet, they are not only to be excused but
to be applauded."

The reader may be reminded that Shakespeare has evinced a very
decided partiality for ghosts. In "The Second Part of King Henry VI.,"
Bolingbroke, the conjurer, raises up a spirit. In "Julius Cæsar,"
Brutus is visited in his tent by the ghost of the murdered Cæsar. In
"Hamlet," we have, of course, the ghost of the late king. In "Macbeth"
the ghost of Banquo takes his seat at the banquet, and in the caldron
scene we are shown apparitions of "an armed head," "a bloody child,"
"a child crowned, with a tree in his hand," and "eight kings" who pass
across the stage, "the last with a glass in his hand." In "Richard
III." quite a large army of ghosts present and address themselves
alternately to Richard and to Richmond. The ghosts of Prince Edward,
Henry VI., Clarence, Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, Hastings, the two
young Princes, Queen Anne, and Buckingham invoke curses upon the
tyrant and blessings upon his opponent. It would be hard to find in
the annals of the drama another instance of such an assembly of
apparitions present upon the stage at the same time.

In Otway's tragedy of "Venice Preserved," the ghosts of Jaffier and
Pierre, which confronted the distracted Belvidera in the last scene,
were for a long time very popular apparitions, although in later
performances of the play it was thought proper to omit them, and to
allow the audience to imagine their presence, or to conclude that
Belvidera only fancied that she saw them. Here, however, is the
extract from the original play:

    BELVIDERA. Ha! look there!
           [_The Ghosts of Jaffier and Pierre rise together, both bloody._
    My husband bloody, and his friend too! Murder!
    Who has done this? Speak to me, thou sad vision!
                                                     [_Ghosts sink._
    On these poor trembling knees, I beg it. Vanished!
    Here they went down. Oh! I'll dig, dig the den up.
    You shan't delude me thus. Ho! Jaffier, Jaffier,
    Peep up and give me but a look. I have him!
    I've got him, father! Oh, now I'll smuggle him!
    My love! my dear! my blessing! help me! help me!
    They have hold on me, and drag me to the bottom.
    Nay, now they pull so hard. Farewell.             [_She dies._

    MAID. She's dead.
    Breathless and dead.

This may seem very sad stuff, but it would be unfair to judge Otway's
plays by this one extract. "Venice Preserved" is now shelved as an
acting drama, but it was formerly received with extraordinary favour,
and is by no means deficient in poetic merit. Campbell, the poet,
speaks of it, in his life of Mrs. Siddons, as "a tragedy which so
constantly commands the tears of audiences that it would be a work of
supererogation for me to extol its tenderness. There may be dramas
where human character is depicted with subtler skill--though Belvidera
might rank among Shakespeare's creations; and 'Venice Preserved' may
not contain, like 'Macbeth' and 'Lear,' certain high conceptions which
exceed even the power of stage representation--but it is as full as a
tragedy can be of all the pathos that is transfusable into action."
Belvidera was one of Mrs. Siddons's greatest characters. Campbell
notes that "until the middle of the last century the ghosts of Jaffier
and Pierre used to come in upon the stage, haunting Belvidera in her
last agonies, which certainly require no aggravation from spectral
agency." The play was much condensed for presentment on the stage; but
it would not appear that Belvidera's dying speech, quoted above, was
interfered with. Boaden, in his memoir of the actress, expressly
commends Mrs. Siddons's delivery of the passage, "I'll dig, dig the
den up!" and the action which accompanied the words.

For the time ghosts had been only incidental to a performance;
by-and-by they were to become the main features and attractions of
stage representation. Still they had not escaped ridicule and
caricature. Fielding, in his burlesque tragedy of "Tom Thumb,"
introduced the audience to a scene between King Arthur and the ghost
of Gaffer Thumb. The king threatens to kill the ghost, and prepares to
execute his threat, when the apparition kindly explains to him, "I am
a ghost and am already dead." "Ye stars!" exclaims King Arthur, "'tis

In his humorous notes to the published play, Fielding states, with
mock gravity: "Of all the particulars in which the modern stage falls
short of the ancient, there is none so much to be lamented as the
great scarcity of ghosts. Whence this proceeds I will not presume to
determine. Some are of opinion that the moderns are unequal to that
sublime sort of language which a ghost ought to speak. One says
ludicrously that ghosts are out of fashion; another that they are
properer for comedy; forgetting, I suppose, that Aristotle hath told
us that a ghost is the soul of tragedy," &c. &c. But when, towards the
commencement of the present century, melodrama was first brought upon
the boards, the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe were being dramatised, and
such pieces as "The Tale of Mystery," "The Bleeding Nun," and "The
Castle Spectre," were obtaining public favour, it was clear that room
was being made for the stage ghost; the way was cleared for it to
become the be-all and the end-all of the performance, the prominent
attraction of the evening.

Here is an extract from Lewis's "Castle Spectre," including certain
stage directions, by no means the least important part of the play.

     _Enter_ HASSAN, _hastily_.

     HASSAN. My lord, all is lost! Percy has surprised the castle,
     and speeds this way!

     OSMOND. Confusion! Then I must be sudden! Aid me, Hassan!

     HASSAN _and_ OSMOND _force_ ANGELA _from her father, who
     suddenly disengages himself from_ MULEY _and_ ALARIC. OSMOND,
     _drawing his sword, rushes upon_ REGINALD, _who is disarmed, and
     beaten upon his knees; when at the moment that_ OSMOND _lifts
     his arm to stab him,_ EVELINA'S _ghost throws herself between
     them_. OSMOND _starts back and drops his sword._

     OSMOND. Horror! What form is this?

     ANGELA. Die!

     _Disengages herself from_ HASSAN, _who springs suddenly forward,
     and plunges her dagger in_ OSMOND'S _bosom, who falls with a
     loud groan and faints. The ghost vanishes._ ANGELA _and_
     REGINALD _rush into each other's arms._

"The Castle Spectre" enjoyed great success. It was supported by the
whole strength of the Drury Lane company, John Kemble appearing as
Earl Percy, and Mrs. Jordan as the heroine, and was repeated some
fifty nights during its first season.

It may be worth recording that in the course of the play, the great
John Kemble was required to execute, not exactly what is now known as
a "sensation header," but still a gymnastic feat of some difficulty
and danger. Earl Percy has something of the agility of a harlequin
about him, and when he obtains admission into his enemy's castle to
rescue Angela, he is required to climb from a sofa up to a gothic
window high above him, and then, alarmed by the approach of his negro
sentinels, to fall from the height flat again at full length upon his
sofa, and to pretend to be asleep as his guards had previously left
him. Kemble is said to have done this "as boldly and suddenly as if
he had been shot." When people complimented him upon his unsuspected
agility, he would answer: "Nay, gentlemen, Mr. Boaden has exceeded all
compliment upon this feat of mine, for he counselled me from Macbeth
to 'jump the life to come.'" "It was melancholy," comments Mr. Boaden,
recording the success of the play, "to see the abuse of such talents;"
and then he adds the remarkable opinion: "It is only in a barn that
the Cato of a company should be allowed to risk his neck!"

Against "The Castle Spectre" the critics, of course, raised their
voices. Its popularity was viewed with much bitterness and jealousy.
"The great run the piece had," writes the reverend author of "The
History of the Stage," "is a striking proof that success is a very
uncertain criterion of merit. The plot is rendered contemptible by the
introduction of the ghost." "I hope it will not be hereafter
believed," cried Cooke the actor, "that 'The Castle Spectre' could
attract crowded houses when the most sublime productions of the
immortal Shakespeare could be played to empty benches." A dispute
arising in the green-room of the theatre between Lewis and Sheridan,
Lewis offered to bet all the money which the play had brought that he
was in the right. "No," said Sheridan, "I can't afford to bet so much
as that; but I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll bet you all it's worth."
Still, there was no cavilling down the play. The stage ghost was
triumphant. He had attained his apogee. "The Castle Spectre" remained
a stock piece for years, and has even appeared upon the stage in quite
recent times.

Formerly the public had been satisfied with a very prosaic ghost. A
substantial figure, with a whitened face, and a streak of red paint on
his brow, was thrust through a trap-door, and it was held that all had
been done that was necessary in the way of stage illusion. The ghost
of Hamlet's father was frequently attired in a suit of real armour
borrowed from the Tower. There is a story of a ghost thus heavily
accoutred, who, overcome by the weight of his harness, fell down on
the stage and rolled towards the foot-lights, the pit raising an alarm
lest the poor apparition should indeed be burnt by the fires of the
lamps. Barton Booth, the great actor in the time of Queen Anne and
George I., is said to have been the first representative of the ghost
in "Hamlet" who wore list shoes to deaden the noise of his footsteps
as he moved across the stage. In the poem of "The Actor," by Robert
Lloyd, the friend of Churchill, published in 1757, we have an explicit
description of the treatment of ghosts then in vogue upon the stage,
with special reference to the ghost of "our dear friend" Banquo:

    But in stage customs what offends me most
    Is the slip-door, and slowly rising ghost.
    Tell me--nor count the question too severe--
    Why need the dismal powdered forms appear?
    When chilling horrors shake the affrighted king,
    And guilt torments him with her scorpion sting,
    When keenest feelings at his bosom pull,
    And fancy tells him that the seat is full;
    Why need the ghost usurp the monarch's place,
    To frighten children with his mealy face?
    The king alone should form the phantom there,
    And talk and tremble at the vacant chair.

Farther on the poet discourses of the ghosts in "Venice Preserved," of
which mention has already been made:

    If Belvidera her loved lost deplore,
    Why for twin spectres burst the yawning floor?
    When, with disordered starts and horrid cries,
    She paints the murdered forms before her eyes,
    And still pursues them with a frantic stare,
    'Tis pregnant madness brings the visions there.
    More instant horror would enforce the scene
    If all her shudderings were at shapes unseen.

It may have been due to Lloyd's poem, and to the opinions it expressed
and obtained favour for, that when Drury Lane Theatre opened in 1794
with a performance of "Macbeth," the experiment was tried of omitting
the appearance of Banquo's ghost, and leaving its presence to be
imagined by the spectators. The alteration, however, was not found to
be agreeable to the audience. While granting that Mr. Kemble's fine
acting was almost enough to make them believe they really did see the
ghost, they preferred that there should be no mistake about the
matter, and that Banquo's shade should come on bodily--be distinctly
visible. Further, they were able to point to Shakespeare's stage
direction: "Enter the ghost of Banquo, and sits in Macbeth's place."
Surely there could be no mistake, they argued, as to what the
dramatist himself intended. In subsequent performances the old system
was restored, and in all modern representations of the tragedy the
phantom has not failed to be visible to the spectators. Nevertheless
Banquo's ghost remains the _crux_ of stage managers. How to get him
on? How to get him off? How to make him look anything like a
ghost--respectable, if not awful? How to avoid that distressing titter
generally audible among those of the spectators who cannot suppress
their sense of the ludicrous even in one of Shakespeare's grandest
scenes? Upon a darkened stage a ghost, skilfully attired in vaporous
draperies, may be made sufficiently impressive, as in "Hamlet," for
instance. The shade of the departed king, if tolerably treated, seldom
provokes a smile, even from the most hardened and jocose of
spectators. But in "Macbeth" the scene must be well lighted, for the
nobles, courtiers, and guests are at high banquet; and the ghost must
appear towards the front of the stage, otherwise Macbeth will be
compelled to turn his back upon the public, and his simulated horror
will be absolutely thrown away; if the actor's face cannot be seen,
his acting, of necessity, goes for little or nothing. Even in our own
days of triumphant stage illusion, it must be owned that the
presentment of Banquo's ghost still remains incomplete and
unsatisfactory; but where such adroit managers as Mr. Macready, Mr.
Charles Kean, and Mr. Phelps (to name no more) have failed, it seems
vain to hope for success. Pictorially, Banquo's ghost has fared
better, as all who are acquainted with Mr. Maclise's "Macbeth" will
readily acknowledge.

A curious fact in connection with the Banquo of Betterton's time may
here be noted. Banquo was represented by an actor named Smith; the
ghost, however, was personated by another actor--Sandford. Why this
division of the part between two performers? Smith was possessed of a
handsome face and form, whereas Sandford was of "a low and crooked
figure." He was the stage villain of his time, and was famed for his
uncomely and malignant aspect; "the Spagnolet of the stage," Cibber
calls him; but it is certainly strange that he should therefore have
enjoyed a prescriptive right to impersonate ghosts.

The attempted omission of Banquo's ghost, however, made it clear that
the old substantial shade emerging from a trap-door in the stage had
ceased to satisfy the town. Something more was required. The public
were becoming critical about their ghosts. Credit could not be given
to the spirits of the theatre if they exceeded a certain consistency.
There was a demand for something vaporous and unearthly, gliding,
transparent, mysterious. Scenic illusion was acquiring an artistic
quality. The old homely simple processes of the theatre were exploded.
The audience would only be deceived upon certain terms. Mr. Boaden,
adapting Ann Radcliffe's "Romance of the Forest" to the stage of
Covent Garden Theatre, records the anxiety he felt about the proper
presentment of its supernatural incidents. The contrivance he hit upon
has since become one of the commonplaces of theatrical illusion. It
was arranged that the spectre should be seen through a bluish-gray
gauze, so as to remove the too corporeal effect of a live actor, and
convert the moving substance into a gliding essence.

The plan, however, was not carried into effect without considerable
difficulty. Mr. Harris, the manager, ordered a night rehearsal of the
play, so that the author might judge of the success of the effects
introduced. The spectre was to be personated by one Thompson, a portly
jovial actor, whose views as to the treatment of the supernatural upon
the stage were of a very primitive kind. He appeared upon the scene
clad in the conventional solid armour of the theatre, with over all a
gray gauze veil, as stiff as buckram, thrown about him. Mr. Boaden
describes his horror and astonishment at the misconception. It had
been intended that the gauze, stretched on a frame, should cover a
portal of the scene, and that the figure of the spectre should be seen
dimly through it. But even then the contour of Thompson was found very
inappropriate to a phantom. It was necessary to select for the part an
actor of a slighter and taller form. At length a representative of the
ghost was found in the person of Follet, the clown, "celebrated for
his eating of carrots in the pantomimes." Follet readily accepted the
part: his height was heroic, he was a skilled posture-maker, he was
well versed in the duties of a mime. Still there was a further
difficulty. The ghost had to speak--only two words, it is true--he had
to utter the words "Perished here!" and, as the clown very frankly
admitted: "'Perished here' will be exactly the fate of the author if
I'm left to say it." The gallery would recognise the clown's voice,
and all seriousness would be over for the evening. It was like the ass
in the lion's skin--he would bray, and all would be betrayed. At last
it was determined that the part should be divided; Follet should
perform the actions of the ghost, while Thompson, in the wings, out of
the sight of the audience, should pronounce the important words. The
success of the experiment was signal. Follet, in a closely-fitting
suit of dark-gray stuff, made in the shape of armour, faintly visible
through the sheet of gauze, flitted across the stage like a shadow,
amidst the breathless silence of the house, to be followed presently,
on the falling of the curtain, by peal after peal of excited applause.

A humorous story of a stage ghost is told in Raymond's "Life of
Elliston," aided by an illustration from the etching-needle of George
Cruikshank, executed in quite his happiest manner. Dowton the actor,
performing a ghost part--to judge from the illustration, it must have
been the ghost in "Hamlet," but the teller of the story does not say
formally that such was the fact--had, of course, to be lowered in the
old-fashioned way through a trap-door in the stage, his face being
turned towards the audience. Elliston and De Camp, concealed beneath
the stage, had provided themselves with small ratan canes, and as
their brother-actor slowly and solemnly descended, they applied their
sticks sharply and rapidly to the calves of his legs, unprotected by
the plate armour that graced his shins. Poor Dowton with difficulty
preserved his gravity of countenance, or refrained from the utterance
of a yell of agony while in the presence of the audience. His lower
limbs, beneath the surface of the stage, frisked and curvetted about
"like a horse in Ducrow's arena." His passage below was maliciously
made as deliberate as possible. At length, wholly let down, and
completely out of the sight of the audience, he looked round the
obscure regions beneath the stage to discover the base perpetrators of
the outrage. He was speechless with rage and burning for revenge.
Elliston and his companion had of course vanished. Unfortunately, at
that moment, Charles Holland, another member of the company,
splendidly dressed, appeared in sight. The enraged Dowton, mistaking
his man, and believing that Holland's imperturbability of manner was
assumed and an evidence of his guilt, seized a mop at that moment at
hand immersed in very dirty water, and thrusting it in his face,
utterly ruined wig, ruffles, point-lace, and every particular of his
elaborate attire. In vain Holland protested his innocence and
implored for mercy; his cries only stimulated the avenger's exertions,
and again and again the saturated mop did desperate execution over the
unhappy victim's finery.

Somewhat appeased at last, Dowton stayed his hand; but in the meantime
Holland was summoned to appear upon the stage. The play was
proceeding--what was to be done! All was confusion. It was not
possible for Holland to present himself before the audience in such a
plight as he had been reduced to. An apology was made "for the sudden
indisposition of Mr. Holland," and the public were informed that "Mr.
De Camp had kindly undertaken to go on for the part." Whether Dowton
ever discovered his real persecutors is not stated. The story, indeed,
may not be true, or it may be much rouged and burnt-corked, as are so
many theatrical anecdotes, to conceal its natural poverty and weakness
of constitution. But it is an amusing legend in any case.

The melodrama of "The Corsican Brothers," first produced in England at
the Princess's Theatre in 1852, and splendidly revived at the Lyceum
by Mr. Irving in 1880, reawakened the public interest in the ghosts of
the theatre; and the spectre that rose from the stage as from a
cellar, and crossing it, gained his full stature gradually as he
proceeded, was for some time a great popular favourite, though
burlesque dogged his course, and a certain ridicule always attended
his exertions. The fidgety musical accompaniment brought from Paris,
and known as "The Ghost Melody," by M. Varney, excited much
admiration, while the intricate stage machinery involved in the
production of the apparition of Louis dei Franchi gave additional
interest to the performance. Of late years the modern drama has made
scarcely any addition to our stock of stage ghosts. The ingenious
invention known as the Spectral Illusion of Messrs. Dircks and Pepper
obtained great favour at one time, and awakened some interest upon the
subject of theatrical phantoms. But it soon became clear that the
public cared for the Illusion, and not for the Spectre. They were
concerned about the mechanism of the contrivance, not awed by the
supernatural appearances it brought before them. When once you begin
to inquire by what process a ghost is produced, it is clear you are
not moved by its character as a spectre merely. Puppets lose their
power to please when the spectators are bent upon detecting the wires
by which they are made to move.

The old melodramatic stage ghost--the spectre of "The Castle Spectre"
school of plays--the phantom in a white sheet with a dab of red paint
upon its breast, that rose from behind a tomb when a blow was struck
upon a gong and a teaspoonful of blue fire was lighted in the wings,
probably found its last home in the travelling theatre long known as
"Richardson's." Expelled from the regular theatre, it became a
wanderer upon the face of the earth, appearing at country fairs, and
bringing to bear upon remote agricultural populations those terrors
that had long since lost all value in the eyes of the townsfolk. It
lived to become a thing of scorn. "Richardson's Ghost" became a byword
for a bankrupt phantom--a preposterous apparition, that was, in fact,
only too thoroughly seen through: not to apply the words too
literally. Whether there is still a show calling itself "Richardson's"
(the original Richardson died a quarter of a century ago, and his
immediate followers settled in a permanent London theatre long years
back), and whether there is yet a phantom perambulating the country
and calling itself "Richardson's Ghost," may be left to the very
curious to inquire into and determine. The travelling theatre nowadays
has lost its occupation. When the audiences began to travel, the stage
could afford to be stationary.



Mr. Thackeray has described a memorable performance at the Theatre
Royal, Chatteries. Arthur Pendennis and his young friend Harry Foker
were among the audience; Lieutenants Rodgers and Podgers, and Cornet
Tidmus, of the Dragoons, occupied a private box. The play was "The
Stranger." Bingley, the manager, appeared as the hero of the sombre
work; Mrs. Haller was impersonated by Miss Fotheringay. "I think ye'll
like Miss Fotheringay in Mrs. Haller, or me name's not Jack Costigan,"
observed the father of the actress. Bingley, we are told, was great in
the character of the Stranger, and wore the tight pantaloons and
Hessian boots which stage tradition has duly prescribed as the costume
of that doleful personage. "Can't stand you in tights and Hessians,
Bingley," young Mr. Foker had previously remarked. He had the stage
jewellery on too, selecting "the largest and most shining rings for
himself," and allowing his little finger to quiver out of his cloak,
with a sham diamond ring covering the first joint of the finger, and
twiddling it in the faces of the pit. It is told of him that he made
it a favour to the young men of his company to go on in light-comedy
parts with that ring. They flattered him by asking its history. "It
had belonged to George Frederick Cooke, who had had it from Mr. Quin,
who may have bought it for a shilling." But Bingley fancied the world
was fascinated by its glitter.

And he read out of that stage-book--the genuine and old-established
"book of the play"--that wonderful volume, "which is not bound like
any other book in the world, but is rouged and tawdry like the hero or
heroine who holds it; and who holds it as people never do hold books:
and points with his finger to a passage, and wags his head ominously
at the audience, and then lifts up eyes and finger to the ceiling,
professing to derive some intense consolation from the work between
which and heaven there is a strong affinity. Any one," proceeds the
author of "Pendennis," "who has ever seen one of our great light
comedians X., in a chintz dressing-gown, such as nobody ever wore, and
representing himself as a young nobleman in his apartments, and
whiling away the time with light literature, until his friend Sir
Harry shall arrive, or his father shall come down to breakfast--anybody,
I say, who has seen the great X. over a sham book, has indeed had
a great pleasure, and an abiding matter for thought."

The Stranger reads from morning to night, as his servant Francis
reports of him. When he bestows a purse upon the aged Tobias, that he
may be enabled to purchase his only son's discharge from the army, he
first sends away Francis with the stage-book, that there may be no
witness of the benevolent deed. "Here, take this book, and lay it on
my desk," says the Stranger; and the stage direction runs: "Francis
goes into the lodge with the book." Bingley, it is stated, marked the
page carefully, so that he might continue the perusal of the volume
off the stage if he liked. Two acts later, and the Stranger is again
to be beheld, "on a seat, reading." But after that he has to put from
him his precious book, for the incidents of the drama demand his very
serious attention.

Dismissed from the Stranger, however, the stage-book probably
reappears in the afterpiece. In how many dramatic works figures this
useful property--the "book of the play"? Shakespeare has by no means
disdained its use. Imogen is discovered reading in her bed in the
second act of "Cymbeline." She inquires the hour of the lady in

                        Almost midnight, madam.

    IMOGEN. I have read three hours, then; mine eyes are weak.
    Fold down the leaf where I have left! To bed!

By-and-by, when Iachimo steals from his trunk to "note the chamber,"
he observes the book, examines it, and proclaims its nature:

                       She hath been reading late
    The tale of Tereus! here's the leaf turned down
    Where Philomel gave up.

Brutus reads within his tent:

    Let me see, let me see; is not the leaf turned down
    Where I left reading? Here it is, I think.
    How ill this taper burns! Ha! Who comes here?

And thereupon enters the ghost of Cæsar, and appoints a meeting at

In the third act of "The Third Part of King Henry VI.," that monarch
enters, "disguised, with a prayer-book." Farther on, when a prisoner
in the Tower, he is "discovered sitting with a book in his hand, the
Lieutenant attending;" when Gloucester enters, abruptly dismisses the
Lieutenant, and forthwith proceeds to the assassination of the king.

But Gloucester himself is by-and-by to have dealings with the "book of
the play." In the seventh scene of the third act of "King Richard
III.," a stage direction runs: "Enter Gloucester in a gallery above,
between two bishops." Whereupon the Lord Mayor, who has come with
divers aldermen and citizens to beseech the duke to accept the crown
of England, observes:

    See where his grace stands 'tween two clergymen!

Says Buckingham:

    Two props of virtue for a Christian prince,
    To stay him from the fall of vanity;
    And, see, a book of prayer in his hand;
    True ornaments to know a holy man.

The mayor and citizens departing, Gloucester, in Cibber's acting
version of the tragedy, was wont wildly to toss his prayer-book in the
air. Here is an apposite note from John Taylor's "Records of my Life,"
relative to Garrick's method of accomplishing this piece of stage
business: "My father, who saw him perform King Richard on the first
night of his appearance at Goodman's Fields, told me that the audience
were particularly struck with his manner of throwing away the book
when the lord mayor and aldermen had retired, as it manifested a
spirit totally different from the solemn dignity which characterised
the former old school, and which his natural acting wholly

A certain antiquary, when Kemble first assumed the part of Richard,
took objection to the prayer-book he affected to read in this scene.
"This book," writes Boaden, "for aught I know the 'Secret History of
the Green Room,' which Kemble took from the property-man before he
went on, our exact friend said should have been some illuminated
missal. This was somewhat inconsistent, because one would suppose the
heart of the antiquary must have grieved to see the actor skirr away
so precious a relic of the dark ages, as if, like Careless, in 'The
School for Scandal,' he would willingly 'knock down the mayor and
aldermen.'" It was at this time, probably, that antiquarianism first
stirred itself on the subject of scenic decorations. The solitary
banner unfurled by Kemble, as Richard, bore a white rose embroidered
upon it. "What!" cried the antiquaries, "a king of England battling
with invaders and yet not displaying his royal banner!" And remark was
made upon the frequent mention of armour that occurs in the later
scenes of the play. We have "locked up in steel;" "What! is my beaver
easier than it was?" "And all my armour laid into my tent;" "The
armourers accomplishing the knights;" "With clink of hammers closing
rivets up;" "Your friends up and buckle on their armour." Yet, as
Boaden relates, it was no less strange than true, that, in Kemble's
time, "excepting the breastplate and thigh-pieces on Richmond, not one
of the _dramatis personæ_ had the smallest particle of armour upon him
in either army."

There is a stage-book in "King Henry VIII." The Duke of Norfolk, in
the second act, "opens a folding-door; the king is discovered sitting
and reading pensively." The book of Prospero is spoken of, but not
seen. In "Hamlet" the stage-book plays an important part. Says
Polonius to Ophelia, when he and Claudius would be "lawful espials" of
her meeting with Hamlet:

                            Read on this book,
    That show of such an exercise may colour
    Your loneliness.

The book is now usually a missal which the lady employs at her
orisons. But it is oftentimes--for so stage-management will have
it--the identical volume with which Hamlet had entered reading in an
earlier act, and which he describes, upon being interrogated by
Polonius, as containing, "words, words, words!" and "slanders, sir!"
It was John Kemble's way, we are told, to tear out a leaf from the
book at this period of the performance, by way of conveying the
"stronger impression of Hamlet's wildness." The actor's method of
rendering this scene has not been adopted by later representatives of
the character. Indeed, a long run of the tragedy, such as happens in
these times, would involve serious outlay for stage-books, if so
destructive a system were persisted in. Moreover, there is no sort of
warrant in the text for tearing a leaf out of the "satirical rogue's"

The "book of the play" frequently figures in theatrical anecdote.
Wilkinson relates, that when Reddish made his first essay upon the
stage, he inserted a paragraph in the newspaper, informing the public
that he was "a gentleman of easy fortune." He appeared as Sir John
Dorilant, in "The School for Lovers," and in the course of his
performance threw from him an elegantly-bound book, which he was
supposed to have been studying. Observing this, a gentleman in the pit
inquired of Macklin, who happened to be present: "Pray, sir, do you
think such conduct natural?" "Why, no, sir," Macklin replied gravely,
"not in a Sir John Dorilant, but strictly natural as Mr. Reddish; for,
as you know, he has advertised himself as a gentleman of easy
fortune." It has been pointed out, however, that the inaccuracy, fatal
to so many anecdotes, affects even this one. The book is thrown away
in strict accordance with the stage directions of the play; and it is
so treated, not by Sir John Dorilant, but by another character named

Macklin administered a similar rebuke, while his comedy of "The
True-born Irishman" was in rehearsal, to an actor personating one of
the characters, and acquitting himself very indifferently. Upon his
mispronouncing the name of Lady Kennegad, Macklin stepped up to him
and demanded angrily, "What trade he was of?" The player replied that
he was a gentleman. Macklin rejoined: "Stick to that, sir! stick to
that; for you will never be an actor."

In Farquhar's comedy of "The Inconstant," when Bisarre is first
addressed by Mirabel and Duretête, Miss Farren, playing Bisarre, held
a book in her hand, which she affected to have been reading before she
spoke. Mrs. Jordan, we are told, who afterwards assumed the character,
declined to make use of the stage-book, and dispensed with it
altogether. She sat perfectly still, affecting to be lost in thought.
Then, before speaking, she took a pinch of snuff! Half a century ago a
heroine who indulged in snuff was deemed no more objectionable than is
one of our modern heroes of the stage, who cannot forego cigars or

There is a stage-book to be seen in "The School for Scandal." Joseph
Surface affects to pore over its pages immediately after he has
secreted Lady Teazle behind the screen, and while Sir Peter is on the
stairs. "Ever improving himself," notes Sir Peter, and then taps the
reader on the shoulder. Joseph starts. "I have been dozing over a
stupid book," he says; and the stage direction bids him "gape, and
throw down the book." And many volumes are needed in "The Rivals."
Miss Languish's maid Lucy returns after having traversed half the
town, and visited all the circulating libraries in Bath. She has
failed to obtain "The Reward of Constancy;" "The Fatal Connexion;"
"The Mistakes of the Heart;" "The Delicate Mistress, or the Memoirs of
Lady Woodford." But she has secured, as she says, "taking the books
from under her cloak, and from her pockets, 'The Gordian Knot' and
'Peregrine Pickle.' Here are 'The Tears of Sensibility' and 'Humphry
Clinker.' This, 'The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality,' written by
herself; and here the second volume of 'The Sentimental Journey.'"

     LYDIA. Heigh-ho! What are those books by the glass?

     LUCY. The great one is only "The Whole Duty of Man," where I
     press a few blonds, ma'am.

     LYDIA. Very well; give me the sal volatile.

     LUCY. Is it in a blue cover, ma'am?

     LYDIA. My smelling-bottle, you simpleton!

     LUCY. Oh, the drops! Here, ma'am.

Presently the approach of Mrs. Malaprop and Sir Anthony Absolute is
announced. Cries Lydia: "Here, my dear Lucy, hide these books. Quick,
quick. Fling 'Peregrine Pickle' under the toilet; throw 'Roderick
Random' into the closet; put 'The Innocent Adultery' into 'The Whole
Duty of Man;' thrust 'Lord Aimworth' under the sofa; cram 'Ovid'
behind the bolster; there, put 'The Man of Feeling' into your
pocket--so, so--now lay 'Mrs. Chapone' in sight, and leave 'Fordyce's
Sermons' open on the table."

     LUCY. O, burn it, ma'am. The hairdresser has torn away as far as
     "Proper Pride."

     LYDIA. Never mind; open at "Sobriety." Fling me "Lord
     Chesterfield's Letters." Now for 'em!

It will be perceived that the property-master of the theatre is here
required to produce quite a library of stage-books. Does he buy them
by the dozen, from the nearest book-stall--out of that trunk full of
miscellaneous volumes, boldly labelled, "All these at fourpence"? And
does he then recover them with the bright blue or scarlet that is so
dear to him, daubing them here and there with his indispensable Dutch
metal? Of course their contents can matter little. Like all the other
things of the theatre, they are not what they pretend to be, nor what
they would have the audience think them. The "book of the play" is
something of a mystery. Let us take for granted, however, that it is
rarely interesting to the reader, that it is not one of those volumes
which, when once taken up, cannot again be laid down--which thrill,
enchain, and absorb. For otherwise what might happen? When some
necessary question of the play had to be considered, the actor,
over-occupied with the volume in his hand, fairly tied and bound by
its chain of interest, might forget his part--the book might ruin the
play. Of course such an accident could not be permitted. The
stage-book is bound to be a dull book, however much it may seem to
entertain Brutus and Henry, the Stranger and Bisarre, Hamlet and
Joseph Surface, Imogen and Lydia Languish. It is in truth, a book for
all stage-readers. Now it is a prayer-book--as in the case of Richard
III.; and now, in "The Hunchback," it is "Ovid's Art of Love."
According to the prompt-book of the play, Modus is to enter "with a
neatly-bound book."

    HELEN. What is the book?

    MODUS. Tis "Ovid's Art of Love."

    HELEN. That Ovid was a fool.

    MODUS. In what?

    HELEN. In that.
    To call that thing an art which art is none.

She strikes the book from his hand, and reproves him for reading in
the presence of a lady.

    MODUS.  Right you say,
    And well you served me, cousin, so to strike
    The volume from my hand. I own my fault:
    So please you--may I pick it up again?
    I'll put it in my pocket.

It is the misfortune of the "book of the play" to be much maltreated
by the _dramatis personæ_. It is now flung away, now torn, now struck
to earth; the property-master, it may be, watching its fate from the
side-wings--anxious not so much because of its contents or intrinsic
value, as on account of the gaudy cover his art has supplied it with,
and the pains he must take to repair any injuries it may receive in
the course of the performance.



The plan of admitting the public to the theatres at "half-price,"
after the conclusion of a certain portion of the entertainments of the
evening, has, of late years, gone out of fashion. Half-price was an
institution of old date, however, and by no means without advantage to
the playgoer.

Formerly, the prices of admission to the theatres were not fixed so
definitely as at present. In Colley Cibber's time it was held to be
reasonable that the prices should be raised whenever a new play was
produced, on account of which any great expense in the way of scenery,
dresses, and decorations had been incurred, or when pantomimes were
brought out, involving an outlay of a thousand pounds or so. After the
bloom had a little worn off these novelties, the prices fell again to
their old standard; consisting for some years of four shillings, two
shillings and sixpence, eighteenpence, and one shilling.

In November, 1744, when Mr. Fleetwood was manager of Drury Lane, he
was charged by the public with raising his charges too capriciously,
without the excuse of having presented his patrons with a new or a
costly entertainment. Thereupon ensued a disturbance in the theatre,
and Mr. Fleetwood was required by the audience to give an immediate
explanation of his conduct. The manager pleaded that not being an
actor he was exempt from the necessity of appearing on the stage
publicly before the audience; but he gave notice, through one of his
players, that he was willing to confer with any persons might be
deputed to meet him in his own room. A deputation accordingly went
from the pit to confer with the manager, and the house waited
patiently their return. The result of the consultation was stated in a
note to the playbill of the following day (Saturday):

"Whenever a pantomime or farce shall be advertised, the advanced
prices shall be returned to those who do not choose to stay; and, on
Thursday next, will be published the manager's reasons for his conduct
in the present dispute."

This arrangement was very far from giving satisfaction, however, and
the disturbance was renewed the next night. A country gentleman, who
had distinguished himself by the warmth and violence of his
expressions of disapproval, was forcibly removed by the constables
from the upper boxes and carried before a magistrate, who, however, it
would seem, declined to entertain the charge against the offender. The
theatre was closed for two or three nights, and a notice appeared in
the playbills: "The great damage occasioned by the disturbances makes
it impossible to perform." The manager published an address to the
public in _The General Advertiser_, setting forth a statement of the
case and justifying his conduct.

He reminded the public that the extraordinary disturbances which had
lately occurred greatly affected their diversions as well as his
property. He apprehended that the reasons of complaint assigned were,
"the exhibition of pantomimes, advanced prices, and insults on the
audience." As to the first charge, he submitted that, however
distasteful pantomimes might be to the delicacy of some judgments, yet
they were suited to the taste of many others; and as the playhouse
might be considered as the general mart of pleasure, it was only from
the variety of entertainment the different desires of the public could
be supplied. He urged that the receipts of the house were sufficient
evidence that without the occasional performance of pantomimes he
could not afford to produce plays of a higher class. With regard to
the advance in prices, he hoped he should be thought justified in that
measure, when the great increase in his expenses was considered.
Further, he conceived he should be no longer the subject of the
displeasure of the public, since he had complied with the demand that
the advanced prices should be returned to those who quitted the
theatre after the first piece, without waiting to see the pantomime.
He denied that he had ever had any intention to insult the audience.
The arrest of the gentleman in the upper boxes was not in consequence
of his orders, nor was he in anyway acquainted with the fact until
after the discharge of the prisoner. There had been a quarrel in the
theatre and much confusion consequent upon some persons flinging the
candles and sconces on the stage. He denied that he had employed
"bruisers" to coerce the audience. The peace-officers, carpenters, and
scenemen (which last, on account of the pantomime, were very
numerous), and other servants of the theatre, had not appeared until
the tumult was at its height. The benches were being torn up, and
there were threats of storming the stage and demolishing the scenes.
If any "bruisers" were in the pit, the manager presumed that they must
have entered the house with the multitude who came in after the
doorkeepers had been driven from their posts. Finally, he appealed to
the public to pronounce whether, after the concession he had made, and
the injury he had sustained, to the extent of several hundred pounds,
they would persist in a course which would only deprive them of their
diversions, the players of subsistence, and compel him to resign his

This appeal had its effect: the disturbance ceased: although there was
some discontent that an arrangement so profitable to the manager had
been agreed to. It was found that in practice, when people were once
comfortably seated, "very few ever went out to demand their advanced
money; and those few very soon grew tired of doing so; until at last
it settled in the quiet payment of the advanced prices." Mr.
Fleetwood, however, did not long continue in the management.

In the year 1763 there occurred another disturbance. An adaptation of
Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona," by Mr. Benjamin Victor, had
been produced at Drury Lane Theatre. It was played five nights with
success, but, on the sixth, when, according to the old theatrical
custom, the receipts went to the author of the adaptation, the
performance was interrupted. "A set of young men," writes Mr. Victor,
"who called themselves 'The Town,' had consulted together and
determined to compel the manager to admit them at the end of the third
act at half-price to every performance except in the run of a new
pantomime; and they chose to make that demand on the sixth night of
'The Two Gentlemen of Verona,' though it was printed on the playbills
'for the benefit of the author of the alterations.'" The performance
of the play was actually forbidden. One Mr. Fitzpatrick, who was the
avowed ringleader of the reformers, harangued the audience from the
boxes, and set forth in very warm language the impositions of the
managers, vehemently pleading the right of the public to fix the price
of their bill of fare. Garrick came forward to address the house, but
was received with a storm of disapprobation, and refused a hearing.
The uproar continued; the benches were torn up, and the lustres and
girandoles broken. Ultimately, the money taken at the doors was
returned to the audience, and the theatre cleared.

On the following night, Mr. Mallet's tragedy of "Elvira" was played
for the first time. The disturbance was renewed, and Mr. Garrick was
called for. He was asked peremptorily: "Will you or will you not give
admittance for half-price after the third act of a play, except during
the first winter a pantomime is performed?" The manager, dreading a
repetition of the riot of the preceding evening, replied in the
affirmative. A demand was then made for an apology from Moody the
actor, who had interfered to prevent the theatre being fired. Moody
appeared, and, after an Irish fashion, expressed regret that he had
displeased the audience "by saving their lives in putting out the
fire." This pleasantry was very ill received. Mr. Fitzpatrick's party
insisted that the actor should go down on his knees and implore their
pardon. Moody refused with an oath, and abruptly quitted the stage. He
was received with open arms by Garrick in the wings, who assured him
he should not suffer for his spirited conduct. But the tumult in the
theatre became so great, that the manager was compelled to promise
that Moody should not appear on the stage while he was under the
displeasure of the public. A reconciliation was some time afterwards
brought about between the actor and his audience. It may be noted that
in 1763, according to a manuscript memorandum in his own hand
(discovered by Mr. Parkes), Sir Phillip Francis, the supposed
"Junius," commenced to write anonymously for the Press, the occasion
being "a row in a theatre, to help Fitzpatrick out of the scrape."

Mr. Fitzpatrick's plan of reform was supposed to be chiefly levelled
at Mr. Garrick, yet it became evident that the management of the rival
theatre must be made to accept the regulations that had been imposed
on Drury Lane. With this view the rioters paid a visit to Covent
Garden, where the opera of "Artaxerxes" was being represented. Mr.
Fitzpatrick delivered his inflammatory speech from the boxes, and
insisted upon immediate compliance with the demands of his party. Mr.
Beard, the manager, replied with great firmness. He stated that operas
had never been performed at such low prices as at his theatre; that
his expenses were very great; and, he urged, that the public should
not grudge the full price of admission, seeing that no expense in the
way of actors, dresses, scenery, music, and decorations of all kinds,
had been spared for their entertainment. Finally, he declined to
accept the tariff of admission proposed by Mr. Fitzpatrick. A riot
then ensued, and so much damage was done that the carpenters were
employed for four or five days in repairing the theatre. Mr. Beard,
however, by means of a chief justice's warrant, brought two or three
of the rioters before Lord Mansfield. His lordship solemnly cautioned
Mr. Fitzpatrick that if any loss of life were to occur in consequence
of the breach of the peace he had instigated, the law would hold him
accountable for the disaster. This somewhat checked the violence of
the rioters, who contented themselves thenceforward with laughing and
hissing, and forbore to inflict injury upon the furniture and fittings
of the theatre. Mr. Beard, at last, finding it impossible to keep open
the doors of his theatre to any purpose, submitted to the terms of the
dictators; peace was restored, and half-price established.

The exception made in favour of new pantomimes was much remarked upon
at the time. It was declared that the effect of the arrangement would
be to exalt a worthless class of entertainment at the expense of
tragedy and comedy; in order to obtain full prices the managers would
be encouraged to produce a succession of pantomimes, to the neglect of
works of real dramatic worth. Further, it was declared that the
proceedings of Mr. Fitzpatrick, though professedly in the interests of
the public, were, in truth, due to motives of private resentment and
malice. According to Davies, in his "Life of Garrick," there would
seem to be much reason for this charge. Mr. Fitzpatrick was a
gentleman of moderate fortune, constantly attending the theatres,
frequenting the coffee-houses about Covent Garden, and dabbling in
dramatic criticism. He had been introduced to Garrick, had been
received with much favour by the great actor, and placed on the free
list of Drury Lane. His success somewhat turned his brain. He began to
conceive himself a person of great importance. He assumed severely
critical airs, and published letters in "The Craftsman," dealing with
the players, and especially with Garrick, after a very arrogant and
acrimonious fashion. Garrick took up his pen to reply, and in his poem
"The Fribbleriad"--the hero of which is named Fizgigg--he rather
severely satirised his critic. Churchill, following suit, to the
eighth edition of his "Rosciad" added fifty lines, scourging Mr.
Fitzpatrick savagely enough. The "half-price" disturbance was the
method of replying to these attacks of the actor and his friend, which
Mr. Fitzpatrick found to be the most suitable and convenient. Arthur
Murphy, however, says for Mr. Fitzpatrick, that he was admired for his
talents and amiable manners, and that Churchill caricatured him in the
"Rosciad" to gratify the resentment of Garrick. In any case, however,
it would be hard to justify the riot of which Fitzpatrick was
certainly the instigator.

In 1817, the experiment was tried at the English Opera House, or
Lyceum Theatre, of giving two distinct performances in the evening, in
lieu of taking half-price at nine o'clock. The management alleged that
objection had been taken to the length of theatrical performances,
which were often made to extend over five hours; that the half-price
system did not remedy the evil complained of by those whose habits of
life or avocations would not permit their early attendance at the
theatre. "Many persons who would be desirous to witness the early part
of a performance, are indisposed to pay the price of a whole evening's
entertainment, for that portion of it only which they can enjoy; and
it may reasonably be supposed that thousands who might wish to enter
the theatre at a later hour (as at the usual time for second price),
are wholly excluded by the certainty of finding the best seats
occupied. Thus numberless persons, from the one or the other cause,
are deterred from frequenting the amusements of the stage." In order,
therefore, to accommodate the patrons who required the performances
to commence at an early hour, and to gratify those who demanded that
the entertainments should be continued until late, it was proposed to
divide every evening's entertainment into two distinct parts or
performances. Each performance was to consist of a full three-act
opera; or of a short opera with a ballet or musical entertainment. The
first performance was to begin at six o'clock, and to last till about
nine; and the second performance was to begin at half-past nine, and
to conclude at twelve; the prices to either performance being
considerably reduced. "We are fully aware," said the public address of
the management, "that we shall have to encounter many professional
jokes on this occasion, but we are prepared to smile at the
good-humoured raillery of our friends, and the hostile attempts of our
enemies, who may both, perhaps, be inclined to call this a
'Bartholomew Fair scheme.' Let them call it what they will, we know
that our sole aim is to exist by your favour, and by devising all
means for your entertainment, till we ultimately receive an honest
reward for our labours."

The new plan was not found to work very well, however. A very thin
audience attended the first performance, and a few hisses were heard
in opposition to the project; the friends of the management applauding
lustily. At the conclusion of the first entertainment, certain
obstinate persons refused to resign their seats and make way for their
successors, though the stage lamps were extinguished and they were
threatened with total darkness. The manager then came forward, and
formally announced that the first performance had concluded. One or
two then threw their money on the stage, as the price of their
admission to the second performance, and finding that the malcontents
were resolved to keep their seats, the manager submitted and retired.
The plan was only continued for ten nights, when the theatre was
closed for the season. In a farewell address, the manager stated that
the experiment, so far as he could judge, had succeeded; during the
ten nights, compared with the ten nights preceding, an addition of
one-third having been made to the number of persons visiting the
theatre. Still, he did not feel justified in pledging himself to
continue the arrangement in future seasons. There was indeed no
further trial of the double-performance system in lieu of half-price.

It is rather curious to find the plan of half-price having any sort
of effect upon dramatic literature, yet we find, in the "Autobiography
of Thomas Dibdin," 1827, the following advice, given him by Lewis, the
stage-manager at Covent Garden, in regard to writing for the stage,
and apropos of Mr. Dibdin's comedy, called "Liberal Opinions":

"MY DEAR TOM,--This will be your first five-act production, and don't
be offended if an old practitioner ventures to offer (from the respect
he bears you) the fruits of his long experience. Half-price is a very
proper privilege for those whose time or pockets do not afford them an
opportunity of visiting the theatre earlier; but it is often the bane
of an author on the first night of a five-act play. The new-comers
know nothing of the foregone part of the drama; and having no context
with which to connect allusions in the fourth and fifth acts, are apt
to damn without consideration that which they are no judges of--

    And what they cannot comprehend deny.

"To be fore-armed against this contingency, contrive to make some
character (either in the heat of passion, or in any way you please)
briefly run over all the foregoing parts of the story, so as to put
everyone in possession of what they otherwise would have lost by
absence; and, take my word, you will reap the benefit of it."

Mr. Dibdin expresses so much gratitude for Mr. Lewis's counsel, and
recommends it so earnestly to the consideration of all young
dramatists, that we cannot doubt that some effect upon subsequent
writings for the stage must in this indirect way have resulted from
the half-price system, and in avoidance of its disadvantages, as set
forth by the stage-manager of Covent Garden Theatre.



For such a triumph as fanaticism enjoyed over the fine arts in England
during and for some time after the great Civil War, no parallel can be
found in the history of any other nation. And it was not, be it
remembered, the work of a capricious and cruel despot; it was the
tyranny of a solemn legislative assembly. Hypocrisy had some share in
the proceeding, very likely; but in the main the Puritanism of the
time was sincere even to its frenzies of intolerance. Good men and
true held that they were doing only what was sound, and wise, and
right, when they made ruthless war upon poetry, and painting, and all
the refinements and graces of life, denouncing them as scandals and
sins, ungodly devices, pernicious wiles of the author of all evil;
when they peremptorily closed the doors of the theatres, and dismissed
actors, authors, managers, and all concerned, to absolute starvation.

In the England of that time, no doubt, Puritanism obtained supporters
out of respect for superior power; just as in France, at a later date,
Republicanism gained converts by means of terror. The prudent, when
conflict and tumult are at hand, will usually side with the stronger
combatant. Thus it was with little resistance that there passed
through both Houses of Parliament, in 1647, the ordinance by virtue of
which the theatres were to be dismantled and suppressed; all actors of
plays to be publicly whipped; and all spectators and playgoers, for
every offence, condemned to forfeit five shillings. This was the
_coup de grâce;_ for the stage had already undergone many and severe
assaults. The player's tenure of his art had become more and more
precarious, until acting seemed to be as a service of danger. The
ordinance of 1647 closed the theatres for nearly fourteen years; but
for some sixteen years before the stage had been in a more or less
depressed condition. Scarcely any new dramatists of distinction had
appeared after 1630. The theatres were considerably reduced in number
by the time 1636 was arrived at. Then came the arbitrary closing of
the playhouses--professedly but for a season. Thus in 1636 they were
closed for ten months; in 1642 for eighteen months. In truth
Puritanism carried on its victorious campaign against the drama for
something like thirty years; while even at an earlier date there had
been certain skirmishing attacks upon the stage. With the first
Puritan began the quarrel with the players. As Isaac Disraeli has
observed, "we must go back to the reign of Elizabeth to comprehend an
event which occurred in that of Charles I." A sanctimonious sect urged
extravagant reforms--at first, perhaps, in all simplicity--founding
their opinions upon cramped and literal interpretations of divine
precepts, and forming views of human nature "more practicable in a
desert than a city, and rather suited to a monastic order than to a
polished people." Still, these fanatics could scarcely have dreamed
that power would ever be given them to carry their peculiar theories
into practice, and to govern a nation as though it were composed
entirely of precisians and bigots. For two generations--from the
Reformation to the Civil War--the Puritans had been the butt of the
satirical, the jest of the wits--ridiculed and laughed at on all
sides. Then came a time, "when," in the words of Macaulay, "the
laughers began to look grave in their turn. The rigid ungainly zealots
... rose up in arms, conquered, ruled, and, grimly smiling, trod down
under their feet the whole crowd of mockers."

Yet from the first the Puritans had not neglected the pen as a weapon
of offence. In 1579 Stephen Gosson published his curious pamphlet
bearing the lengthy title of "The Schoole of Abuse, containing a
pleasant Invective against Poets, Pipers, Jesters, and such like
Catterpillars of a Commonwealth; setting up the Flag of Defiance to
their mischievous exercise, and overthrowing their Bulwarks, by
Profane Writers, natural reason, and common experience: A Discourse
as pleasant for gentlemen that favour learning as profitable for all
that will follow virtue." Gosson expresses himself with much quaint
force, but he is not absolutely intolerant. He was a student of Oxford
University, had in his youth written poems and plays, and even
appeared upon the scene as an actor. Although he had repented of these
follies, he still viewed them without acrimony. To his pamphlet we are
indebted for certain interesting details in regard to the manners and
customs of the Elizabethan playgoers. A further attack upon the
theatre was led by Dr. Reynolds, of Queen's College, who was greatly
troubled by the performance of a play at Christchurch, and who
published, in 1593, "The Overthrow of Stage Plays," described by
Disraeli as "a tedious invective, foaming at the mouth of its text
with quotations and authorities." Reynolds was especially severe upon
"the sin of boys wearing the dress and affecting the airs of women;"
and thus unconsciously helped on a change he would have regarded as
still more deplorable--the appearance of actresses upon the stage. But
a fiercer far than Reynolds was to arise. In 1633 Prynne produced his
"Histriomastix; or, The Player's Scourge," a monstrous work of more
than a thousand closely-printed quarto pages, devoted to the most
searching indictment of the stage and its votaries. The author has
been described as a man of great learning, but little judgment; of
sour and austere principles, but wholly deficient in candour. His book
was judged libellous, for he had unwittingly aspersed the Queen in his
attack upon the masques performed at Court. He was cited in the Star
Chamber, and sentenced to stand in the pillory, to lose both ears, to
pay a heavy fine, and to undergo imprisonment for life. This severe
punishment probably stimulated the Puritans, when opportunity came to
them, to deal mercilessly with the actors by way of avenging Prynne's
wrongs, or of expressing sympathy with his sufferings.

And it is to be noted that early legislation in regard to the players
had been far from lenient. For such actors as had obtained the
countenance of "any Baron of this Realme," or "any other honourable
personage of greater degree," exception was to be made; otherwise, all
common players in interludes, all fencers, bearwards, and minstrels,
were declared by an Act passed in the 14th year of Elizabeth to be
rogues and vagabonds, and, whether male or female, liable on a first
conviction "to be grievously whipped and burned through the gristle of
the right ear with an hot iron of the compass of an inch about,
manifesting his or her roguish kind of life;" a second offence was
adjudged to be felony; a third entailed death without benefit of
clergy or privilege of sanctuary. Meanwhile, the regular companies of
players to whom this harsh Act did not apply, were not left
unmolested. The Court might encourage them, but the City would have
none of them. They had long been accustomed to perform in the yards of
the City inns, but an order of the Common Council, dated December,
1575, expelled the players from the City. Thereupon public playhouses
were erected outside the "liberties" or boundaries of the City. The
first was probably the theatre in Shoreditch; the second, opened in
its immediate neighbourhood, was known as the Curtain; the third,
built by John Burbadge and other of the Earl of Leicester's company of
players, was the famous Blackfriars Theatre. These were all erected
about 1576, and other playhouses were opened soon afterwards. Probably
to avoid the penalties of the Act of Elizabeth, all strolling and
unattached players made haste to join regular companies, or to shelter
themselves under noble patronage. And now the Church raised its voice,
and a controversy which still possesses some vitality touching the
morality or immorality of playhouses, plays and players, was fairly
and formally entered upon. A sermon preached at Paul's Cross,
November, 1577, "in the time of the plague," by the Rev. T. Wilcocks,
denounced in strong language the "common plays" in London, and the
multitude that flocked to them and followed them, and described "the
sumptuous theatre houses" as a continual monument of London's
prodigality and folly. Performances, it seems, had for a while been
forbidden because of the plague. "I like the policy well if it hold
still," said the preacher; "for a disease is but bodged and patched up
that is not cured in the cause, and the cause of plague is sin, if you
look to it well; and the cause of sin are playes; therefore, the cause
of plagues are playes." It is clear, too, that the clergy had become
affected by a certain jealousy of the players, the sound of whose
trumpet attracted more attention than the ringing of the church-bells,
and brought together a larger audience. John Stockwood, schoolmaster
of Tunbridge, who preached at Paul's Cross on St. Bartholomew's Day,
1578, demanded, "will not a filthy play, with the blast of a trumpet,
sooner call thither a thousand than an hour's tolling bring to the
sermon a hundred?" It was, moreover, an especial grievance to the
devout at this period that plays were represented on a Sunday, the
church and the theatre being thus brought into positive rivalry and
antagonism. The clergy saw with dismay that their own congregations
were thin and listless, while crowded and excited audiences rewarded
the exertions of the players. Mr. Stockwood, declining to discuss
whether plays were or not wholly unlawful, yet protested with good
reason that in a Christian commonwealth they were intolerable on the
seventh day, and exclaimed against the "horrible profanity" and
"devilish inventions" of the lords of misrule, morrice, and May-day
dancers, whom he accused of tripping about the church, even during the
hours of service, and of figuring in costumes which, by their texture
and scantiness, outraged ordinary notions of decency.

But notwithstanding this old-established opposition to the theatres on
the part of both Churchmen and Puritans, and the severe oppression of
the players by the authorities, it is yet indisputable that the
English were essentially a playgoing people; proud, as well they might
be, of the fact that they possessed the finest drama and the best
actors in the world. And, allowing for the licence and grossness which
the times permitted if they did not encourage, and a certain liberty
of speech and action allowed time out of mind to the clowns of the
stage, the drama suppressed by the Puritans was of sound and wholesome
constitution, rich in poetry of the noblest class. It is sufficient to
say, indeed, that it was the drama of Shakespeare and his
contemporaries. To a very large class, therefore, the persecution of
the players and the suppression of the stage must have been grave
misfortune and real privation. To many the theatre still supplied not
merely recreation but education and enlightenment as well. That there
was any rising of the public on behalf of the players does not appear.
Puritanism was too strong for opposition; and besides, the playgoer,
by the nature of his favourite pursuit, almost avows himself a man of
peace and obedient to the law. The public had to submit, as best it
could, to the tyranny of fanaticism. But that bitter mortification was
felt by very many may be taken for granted.

The authors were deprived of occupation so far as concerned the stage;
they sought other employment for their pens; printing a play, however,
now and then, by way of keeping their hands in as dramatists. The
managers, left with nothing to manage, perhaps turned to trade in
quest of outlet for their energies--the manager has been always
something of the trader. But for the actors, forbidden to act, what
were they to do? They had been constituted Malignants or Royalists
almost by Act of Parliament. The younger players promptly joined the
army of King Charles. Mohun acquired the rank of captain, and at the
close of the war, served in Flanders, receiving the pay of a major.
Hart became a lieutenant of horse, under Sir Thomas Dallison, in the
regiment of Prince Rupert. In the same troop served Burt as cornet,
and Shatterel as quartermaster. Allen, of the Cockpit, was a major and
quartermaster-general at Oxford. Robinson, serving on the side of the
King, was long reputed to have lost his life at the taking of Basing
House. The story went that the Cromwellian General Harrison had, with
his own hands, slain the actor, crying, as he struck him down: "Cursed
is he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently." Chalmers
maintains, however, that an entry in the parish register of St.
Anne's, Blackfriars, of the death and burial of "Richard Robinson, a
player," in March, 1647, negatives this account of the actor's fate.
Possibly there were two actors bearing the not uncommon name of
Robinson. These were all players of note, who had acquitted themselves
with applause in the best plays of the time. Of certain older actors,
unable to bear arms for the king, Lowin turned innkeeper, and died, at
an advanced age, landlord of the Three Pigeons at Brentford. He had
been an actor of eminence in the reign of James I.; "and his poverty
was as great as his age," says one account of him. Taylor, who was
reputed to have been taught by Shakespeare himself the correct method
of interpreting the part of Hamlet, died and was buried at Richmond.
These two actors, as did others probably, sought to pick up a little
money by publishing copies of plays that had obtained favour in
performance, but had not before been printed. Thus, in 1652, Beaumont
and Fletcher's "Wild Goose Chase" was printed in folio, "for the
public use of all the ingenious, and the private benefit of John Lowin
and Joseph Taylor, servants to his late Majesty, and by them dedicated
to the honoured few lovers of dramatic poesy: wherein they modestly
intimate their wants, and that with sufficient cause, for whatever
they were before the wars, they were afterwards reduced to a
necessitous condition." Pollard, possessed of some means, withdrew to
his relatives in the country, and there ended his days peacefully.
Perkins and Sumner lodged humbly together in Clerkenwell, and were
interred in that parish. None of these unfortunate old actors lived to
see the re-opening of the theatres or the restoration of the monarchy.

But one actor is known to have sided with the Parliament and against
the King. He renounced the stage and took up the trade of a jeweller
in Aldermanbury. This was Swanston who had played Othello, and had
been described as "a brave roaring fellow, who would make the house
shake again." "One wretched actor only," Mr. Gifford writes, in the
introduction to his edition of Massinger, "deserted his sovereign."
But it may be questioned whether Swanston really merited this
reprehension. He was a Presbyterian, it seems, and remained true to
his political opinions, even though these now involved the abandonment
of his profession. If his brother-players fought for the King, they
fought no less for themselves, and for the theatre the Puritans had
suppressed. Nor is the contrast Mr. Gifford draws, between the conduct
of our actors at the time of the Civil War, and the proceedings of the
French players during the first French Revolution, altogether fair. As
Isaac Disraeli has pointed out, there was no question of suppressing
the stage in France--it was rather employed as an instrument in aid of
the Revolution. The actors may have sympathised sincerely with the
royal family in their afflicted state, but it was hardly to be
expected that men would abandon, on that account, the profession of
their choice, in which they had won real distinction, and which seemed
to flourish the more owing to the excited condition of France. The
French Revolution, in truth, brought to the stage great increase of
national patronage.

The Civil War concluded, and the cause of King Charles wholly lost,
the actors were at their wits' end to earn bread. Certain of them
resolved to defy the law, and to give theatrical performances in spite
of the Parliament. Out of the wreck of the companies of the different
theatres they made up a tolerable troop, and ventured to present some
few plays, with as much caution and privacy as possible, at the
Cockpit, in Drury Lane. This was in the winter of 1648. Doubtless
there were many to whom the stage was dear, who were willing enough to
encourage the poor players. Playgoing had now become as a vice or a
misdemeanour, to be prosecuted in secret--like dram-drinking. The
Cockpit representations lasted but a few days. During a performance of
Fletcher's tragedy of "Rollo, Duke of Normandy," in which such
excellent actors as Lowin, Taylor, Pollard, Burt, and Hart were
concerned, a party of troopers beset the house, broke in about the
middle of the play, and carried off the players, accoutred as they
were in their stage dresses, to Hatton House, then a prison, where,
after being detained some time, they were plundered of their clothes
and dismissed. "Afterwards, in Oliver's time," as an old chronicler of
dramatic events has left upon record, "they used to act privately,
three or four miles or more out of town, now here, now there,
sometimes in noblemen's houses--in particular Holland House, at
Kensington--where the nobility and gentry who met (but in no great
numbers) used to make a sum for them, each giving a broad-piece or the
like." The widow of the Earl of Holland who was beheaded in March,
1649, occupied Holland House at this time. She was the granddaughter
of Sir Walter Cope, and a stout-hearted lady, who doubtless took pride
in encouraging the entertainments her late lord's foes had tried so
hard to suppress. Alexander Goffe, "the woman-actor at Blackfriars,"
acted as "Jackal" on the occasion of these furtive performances. He
had made himself known to the persons of quality who patronised plays,
and gave them notice of the time when and the place where the next
representation would "come off." A stage-play, indeed, in those days
was much what a prize-fight has been in later times--absolutely
illegal, and yet assured of many persistent supporters. Goffe was
probably a slim, innocent-looking youth, who was enabled to baffle the
vigilance of the Puritan functionaries, and to pass freely and
unsuspected between the players and their patrons. At Christmas-time
and during the few days devoted to Bartholomew Fair, the actors, by
dint of bribing the officer in command of the guard at Whitehall, and
securing in such wise his connivance, were enabled to present
performances at the Red Bull in St. John Street. Sometimes the Puritan
troopers were mean enough to accept the hard-earned money of these
poor players, and, nevertheless, to interrupt their performance,
carrying them off to be imprisoned and punished for their breach of
the law. But their great trouble arose from the frequent seizure of
their wardrobe by the covetous soldiers. The clothes worn by the
players upon the stage were of superior quality--fine dresses were of
especial value in times prior to the introduction of scenery--and the
loss was hard to bear. The public, it was feared, would be loath to
believe in the merits of an actor who was no better attired than
themselves. But at length it became too hazardous, as Kirkman relates,
in the preface to "The Wits, or Sport upon Sport," 1672, "to act
anything that required any good cloaths; instead of which painted
cloath many times served the turn to represent rich habits." Kirkman's
book is a collection of certain "scenes or parts of plays ... the
fittest for the actors to represent at this period, there being little
cost in the cloaths, which often then were in great danger to be
seized by the soldiers." These "select pieces of drollery, digested
into scenes by way of dialogue, together with variety of humours of
several nations, fitted for the pleasure and content of all persons,
either in court, city, county, or camp," were first printed in 1662,
by H. Marsh, and were originally contrived by Robert Cox, a comic
genius in his way, who exhibited great ingenuity in evading the
ordinances of Parliament, and in carrying on dramatic performances in
spite of the Puritans. He presented at the Red Bull what were
professedly entertainments of rope-dancing, gymnastic feats, and such
coarse practical fun as may even now be seen in the circus of
strolling equestrian companies; but with these he cunningly
intermingled select scenes from the comedies of the best English
dramatists. From Kirkman's book, which is now highly prized from its
rarity, it appears that the "drollery" entitled "The Bouncing Knight,
or the Robbers Robbed," is, in truth, a famous adventure of Sir John
Falstaff's, set forth in close accordance with the original text;
while the comedy of "Rule a Wife and have a Wife" is reduced to a
brief entertainment called "The Equal Match." Other popular plays are
similarly dealt with. But Cox, it seems, invented not less than he
borrowed. Upon the foundation of certain old-established farces, he
raised up entertainments something of the nature of the extemporary
comedy of Italy: characters being devised or developed expressly with
a view to his own performance of them. "All we could divert ourselves
with," writes Kirkman, "were these humours and pieces of plays, which,
passing under the name of a merry conceited fellow called Bottom the
Weaver, Simpleton the Smith, John Swabber, or some such title, were
only allowed us, and that by stealth too ... and these small things
were as profitable and as great get-pennies to the actors as any of
our late famed plays." He relates, moreover, that these performances
attracted "a great confluence of auditors," insomuch that the Red
Bull, a playhouse of large size, was often so full, that "as many went
back for want of room as had entered;" and that meanly as these
"drolls" might be thought of in later times, they were acted by the
best comedians "then and now in being." Especially he applauds the
actor, author, and contriver of the majority of the farces--"the
incomparable Robert Cox." Isaac Disraeli gives him credit for
preserving alive, as it were by stealth, the suppressed spirit of the
drama. That he was a very natural actor, or what would now be called
"realistic," may be judged from the story told of his performance of a
comic blacksmith, and his securing thereby an invitation to work at
the forge of a master smith, who had been present among the audience.
"Although your father speaks so ill of you," said the employer of
labour, "if you will come and work with me, I will give you
twelvepence a-week more than I give any other journeyman." As Kirkman
adds: "Thus was he taken for a smith bred, that was, indeed, as much
of any trade."

It seems certain that for some few years prior to the Restoration
there had been far less stringent treatment of the players than in the
earlier days of the triumph of Puritanism. Cromwell, perhaps, rather
despised the stage than condemned it seriously on religious grounds;
the while he did not object to indulge in buffoonery and horseplay,
even in the gallery of Whitehall. Some love of music he has been
credited with, and this, perhaps, induced him to tolerate the operatic
dramas of Sir William Davenant, which obtained representation during
the Commonwealth: such as "The History of Sir Francis Drake,"
"represented by instrumental and vocal music, and by art of
Perspective in Scenes," and "The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru."
According to Langbaine, the two plays called "The Siege of Rhodes"
were likewise acted _"in stilo recitativo"_ during the time of the
Civil Wars, and upon the Restoration were rewritten and enlarged for
regular performance at the Duke of York's Theatre, in Lincoln's Inn
Fields. It seems to have been held that a play was no longer a play if
its words were sung instead of spoken--or these representations of
Davenant's works may have been altogether stealthy, and without the
cognisance of the legal authorities of the time. Isaac Disraeli,
however, has pointed out that in some verses, published in 1653, and
prefixed to the plays of Richard Brome, there is evident a tone of
exultation at the passing away of power from the hands of those who
had oppressed the actors. The poet, in a moralising vein, alludes to
the fate of the players as it was affected by the dissolution of the
Long Parliament:

    See the strange twirl of times! When such poor things
    Outlive the dates of parliaments or kings!
    This revolution makes exploded wit
    Now see the fall of those that ruined it;
    And the condemned stage hath now obtained
    To see her executioners arraigned.
    There's nothing permanent; those high great men
    That rose from dust to dust may fall again;
    And fate so orders things that the same hour
    Sees the same man both in contempt and power!

For complete emancipation, however, the stage had to wait some years;
until, indeed, it pleased Monk, acting in accordance with the desire
of the nation, to march his army to London, and to restore the
monarchy. Encamped in Hyde Park, Monk was visited by one Rhodes, a
bookseller, who had been formerly occupied as wardrobe-keeper to King
Charles I.'s company of comedians in Blackfriars, and who now applied
to the general for permission to reopen the Cockpit in Drury Lane as a
playhouse. Monk, it seems, held histrionic art in some esteem; at any
rate the City companies, when with his council of state he dined in
their halls, were wont to entertain him with performances of a
theatrical kind: satirical farces, dancing and singing, "many shapes
and ghosts, and the like; and all to please His Excellency the Lord
General," say the newspapers of the time. Rhodes obtained the boon he
sought, and, promptly engaging a troop of actors, reopened the
Cockpit. His chief actor was his apprentice, Thomas Betterton, the son
of Charles I.'s cook. For some fifty years the great Mr. Betterton
held his place upon the stage, and upon his death was interred with
something like royal honours in Westminster Abbey.

Of the fate of Rhodes nothing further is recorded. He was the first to
give back to Londoners a theatre they might visit legally and safely;
and that done, he is heard of no more. Killigrew and Davenant were
soon invested with patent rights, and entitled to a monopoly of
theatrical management in London; probably they prospered by displacing
Rhodes--but so much cannot be positively asserted.

The drama was now out of its difficulties. Yet the influence and
effect of these did not soon abate. Upon them followed indeed a sort
of after-crop of troubles, seriously injurious to the stage. The
Cavaliers engendered a drama that was other than the drama the
Puritans had destroyed. The theatre was restored, it is true, but with
an altered constitution. It was not only that the old race of poets
and dramatists had died out, and that writing for the stage was as a
new profession, almost as a lost art. Taste had altered. As Evelyn
regretfully notes in 1662, after witnessing a performance of
Hamlet--to which, perhaps, the audience paid little heed, although the
incomparable Betterton appeared in the tragedy--"but now the old plays
begin to disgust this refined age, since his Majesty's being so long
abroad." Shakespeare and his brother-bards were out of fashion. There
was a demand for tragedies of the French school--with rhyming lines
and artificial sentiment--for comedies of intrigue and equivoque,
after a foreign pattern, in lieu of our old English plays of wit,
humour, and character. Plagiarism, translation, and adaptation took up
a secure position on the stage. The leading playwrights of the
Restoration--Dryden, Shadwell, Durfey, Wycherley--all borrowed freely
from the French. Dryden frankly apologised--he was required to produce
so many plays all could not be of his own inventing. The King
encouraged appropriation of foreign works. He drew Sir Samuel Tuke's
attention to an admired Spanish comedy, advising its adaptation to
the English stage: the result was "The Adventures of Five Hours," a
work very highly esteemed by Mr. Pepys. The introduction of scenery
was due in a great measure to French example, although "paintings in
perspective" had already been seen in an English theatre. But now
scenery was imperatively necessary to a dramatic performance, and a
sort of passion arose for mechanical devices and decorative appliances
of a novel kind. Dryden was no reformer--in truth, to suit his own
purposes, he pandered laboriously to the follies and caprices of his
patrons; nevertheless, he was fully sensible of the errors of the
time, and often chronicles these in his prologues and epilogues. He

    True wit has run its best days long ago,
    It ne'er looked up since we were lost in show,
    When sense in doggrel rhymes and clouds was lost,
    And dulness nourished at the actor's cost.
    Nor stopped it here; when tragedy was done,
    Satire and humour the same fate have run,
    And comedy is sunk to trick and pun.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Let them who the rebellion first began
    To wit, restore the monarch if they can;
    Our author dares not be the first bold man.

And upon another occasion:

    But when all failed to strike the stage quite dumb,
    Those wicked engines, called machines, are come.
    Thunder and lightning now for wit are played,
    And shortly scenes in Lapland will be laid.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Fletcher's despised, your Jonson out of fashion.
    And wit the only drug in all the nation.

Actresses, too, were introduced upon the stage in pursuance of
continental example. But for these there was really great necessity.
The boys who, prior to the Civil War, had personated the heroines of
the drama, were now too mature, both in years and aspect, for such an

    Doubting we should never play agen,
    We have played all our women into men!

says the prologue, introducing the first actress. Hart and Mohun,
Clun, Shatterel and Burt, who were now leading actors, had been
boy-actresses before the closing of the theatres. And even after the
Restoration, Mohun whose military title of major was always awarded
him in the playbills, still appeared as Bellamante, one of the
heroines of Shirley's tragedy of "Love's Cruelty." But this must have
been rather too absurd. At the time of the Restoration Mohun could
hardly have been less than thirty-five years of age. It is to be
noted, however, that Kynaston, a very distinguished boy-actress, who,
with Betterton, was a pupil of Rhodes, arose after the Restoration. Of
the earlier boy-actresses, their methods and artifices of performance,
Kynaston could have known nothing. He was undoubtedly a great artist,
winning extraordinary favour both in male and female characters, the
last and perhaps the best of all the epicene stage-players of the

But if the stage, after the Restoration, differed greatly from what it
had been previously, it yet prospered and gained strength more and
more. It was most fortunate in its actors and actresses, who lent it
invaluable support. It never attained again the poetic heights to
which it had once soared; but it surrendered gradually much of its
grossness and its baser qualities, in deference to the improving
tastes of its patrons, and in alarm at the sound strictures of men
like Jeremy Collier. The plagiarist, the adapter, and the translator
did not relax their hold upon it; but eventually it obtained the aid
of numerous dramatists of enduring distinction. The fact that it again
underwent decline is traceable to various causes--among them, the
monopoly enjoyed by privileged persons under the patents granted by
Charles II.; the bungling intervention of court officials invested
with supreme power over the dramatic literature of the nation; and
defective copyright laws, that rendered justice neither to the native
nor to the foreign writer for the theatre. And something, too, the
stage of later years has been affected by a change in public taste,
which has subordinated the play to the novel or poem, and converted
playgoers into the supporters of circulating libraries.



A veteran actor of inferior fame once expressed his extreme dislike to
what he was pleased to term "the sham wine-parties" of Macbeth and
others. He was aweary of the Barmecide banquets of the stage, of
affecting to quaff with gusto imaginary wine out of empty pasteboard
goblets, and of making believe to have an appetite for wooden apples
and "property" comestibles. He was in every sense a poor player, and
had often been a very hungry one. He took especial pleasure in
remembering the entertainments of the theatre in which the necessities
of performance, or regard for rooted tradition, involved the setting
of real edible food before the actors. At the same time he greatly
lamented the limited number of dramas in which these precious
opportunities occurred.

He had grateful memories of the rather obsolete Scottish melodrama of
"Cramond Brig;" for in this work old custom demanded the introduction
of a real sheep's head with accompanying "trotters." He told of a
North British manager who was wont--especially when the salaries he
was supposed to pay were somewhat in arrear, and he desired to keep
his company in good humour and, may be, alive--to produce this play on
Saturday nights. For some days before the performance the dainties
that were destined to grace it underwent exhibition in the green-room.
A label bore the inscription: "This sheep's head will appear in the
play of 'Cramond Brig' on next Saturday night. God save the King!" "It
afforded us all two famous dinners," reveals our veteran. "We had a
large pot of broth made with the head and feet; these we ate on
Saturday night; the broth we had on Sunday." So in another Scottish
play, "The Gentle Shepherd" of Allan Ramsay, it was long the custom on
stages north of the Tweed to present a real haggis, although niggard
managers were often tempted to substitute for the genuine dish a far
less savoury if more wholesome mess of oatmeal. But a play more famous
still for the reality of its victuals, and better known to modern
times, was Prince Hoare's musical farce, "No Song no Supper." A
steaming-hot boiled leg of lamb and turnips may be described as quite
the leading character in this entertainment. Without this appetising
addition the play has never been represented. There is a story,
however, which one can only hope is incorrect, of an _impresario_ of
oriental origin, who supplying the necessary meal, yet subsequently
fined his company all round, on the ground that they had "combined to
destroy certain of the properties of the theatre."

There are many other plays in the course of which genuine food is
consumed on the stage. But some excuse for the generally fictitious
nature of theatrical repasts is to be found in the fact that eating
during performance is often a very difficult matter for the actors to
accomplish. Michael Kelly, in his "Memoirs," relates that he was
required to eat part of a fowl in the supper scene of a bygone
operatic play called, "A House to be Sold." Bannister at rehearsal had
informed him that it was very difficult to swallow food on the stage.
Kelly was incredulous however. "But strange as it may appear," he
writes, "I found it a fact that I could not get down a morsel. My
embarrassment was a great source of fun to Bannister and Suett, who
were both gifted with the accommodating talent of stage feeding.
Whoever saw poor Suett as the lawyer in 'No Song no Supper,' tucking
in his boiled leg of lamb, or in 'The Siege of Belgrade,' will be
little disposed to question my testimony to the fact." From this
account, however, it is manifest that the difficulty of "stage
feeding," as Kelly calls it, is not invariably felt by all actors
alike. And probably, although the appetites of the superior players
may often fail them, the supernumerary or the representative of minor
characters could generally contrive to make a respectable meal if the
circumstances of the case supplied the opportunity.

The difficulty that attends eating on the stage does not, it would
seem, extend to drinking, and sometimes the introduction of real and
potent liquors during the performance has led to unfortunate results.
Thus Whincop, to whose tragedy called "Scanderbeg," published in 1747,
added "a List of all the Dramatic Authors, with some Account of their
Lives," &c., describes a curious occurrence at the Theatre Royal in
1693. A comedy entitled "The Wary Widow, or Sir Noisy Parrot," written
by one Higden, and now a very scarce book, had been produced; but on
the first representation, "the author had contrived so much drinking
of punch in the play that the actors almost all got drunk, and were
unable to get through with it, so that the audience were dismissed at
the end of the third act." Upon subsequent performances of the comedy
no doubt the management reduced the strength of the punch, or
substituted some harmless beverage, toast-and-water perhaps, imitative
of that ardent compound so far as mere colour is concerned. There have
been actors, however, who have refused to accept the innocent
semblance of vinous liquor supplied by the management, and especially
when, as part of their performance, they were required to simulate
intoxication. A certain representative of Cassio was wont to carry to
the theatre a bottle of claret from his own cellar, whenever he was
called upon to sustain that character. It took possession of him too
thoroughly, he said, with a plausible air, to allow of his affecting
inebriety after holding an empty goblet to his lips, or swallowing
mere toast-and-water or small beer. Still his precaution had its
disadvantages. The real claret he consumed might make his intemperance
somewhat too genuine and accurate; and his portrayal of Cassio's
speedy return to sobriety might be in such wise very difficult of
accomplishment. So there have been players of dainty taste, who,
required to eat in the presence of the audience, have elected to bring
their own provisions, from some suspicion of the quality of the food
provided by the management. We have heard of a clown who, entering the
theatre nightly to undertake the duties of his part, was observed to
carry with him always a neat little paper parcel. What did it contain?
bystanders inquired of each other. Well, in the comic scenes of
pantomime it is not unusual to see a very small child, dressed perhaps
as a charity-boy, crossing the stage, bearing in his hands a slice of
bread-and-butter. The clown steals this article of food and devours
it; whereupon the child, crying aloud, pursues him hither and thither
about the stage. The incident always excites much amusement; for in
pantomimes the world is turned upside-down, and moral principles have
no existence; cruelty is only comical, and outrageous crime the best
of jokes. The paper parcel borne to the theatre by the clown under
mention enclosed the bread-and-butter that was to figure in the
harlequinade. "You see I'm a particular feeder," the performer
explained. "I can't eat bread-and-butter of anyone's cutting. Besides,
I've tried it, and they only afford salt butter. I can't stand that.
So as I've got to eat it and no mistake, with all the house looking at
me, I cut a slice when I'm having my own tea, at home, and bring it
down with me."

Rather among the refreshments of the side-wings than of the stage must
be counted that reeking tumbler of "very brown, very hot, and very
strong brandy-and-water," which, as Dr. Doran relates, was prepared
for poor Edmund Kean, as, towards the close of his career, he was wont
to stagger from before the foot-lights, and, overcome by his exertions
and infirmities, to sink, "a helpless, speechless, fainting, bent-up
mass," into the chair placed in readiness to receive the shattered,
ruined actor. With Kean's prototype in acting and in excess, George
Frederick Cooke, it was less a question of stage or side-wing
refreshments than of the measure of preliminary potation he had
indulged in. In what state would he come down to the theatre? Upon the
answer to that inquiry the entertainments of the night greatly
depended. "I was drunk the night before last," Cooke said on one
occasion; "still I acted, and they hissed me. Last night I was drunk
again, and I didn't act; they hissed all the same. There's no knowing
how to please the public." A fine actor, Cooke was also a genuine
humorist, and it must be said for him, although a like excuse has been
perhaps too often pleaded for such failings as his, that his senses
gave way, and his brain became affected after very slight indulgence.
From this, however, he could not be persuaded to abstain, and so made
havoc of his genius, and terminated, prematurely and ignobly enough,
his professional career.

Many stories are extant as to performances being interrupted by the
entry of innocent messengers bringing to the players, in the presence
of the audience, refreshments they had designed to consume behind the
scenes, or sheltered from observation between the wings. Thus it is
told of one Walls, who was the prompter in a Scottish theatre, and
occasionally appeared in minor parts, that he once directed a
maid-of-all-work, employed in the wardrobe department of the theatre,
to bring him a gill of whisky. The night was wet, so the girl, not
caring to go out, intrusted the commission to a little boy who
happened to be standing by. The play was "Othello," and Walls played
the Duke. The scene of the senate was in course of representation.
Brabantio had just stated:

                            My particular grief
    Is of so flood-gate and o'erbearing nature,
    That it engluts and swallows other sorrows,
    And it is still itself--

and the Duke, obedient to his cue, had inquired:

    Why, what's the matter?

when the little boy appeared upon the stage, bearing a pewter measure,
and explained: "It's just the whisky, Mr. Walls; and I couldna git ony
at fourpence, so yer awn the landlord a penny: and he says it's time
you was payin' what's doon i' the book." The senate broke up amidst
the uproarious laughter of the audience.

Upon our early stage a kind of biscuit--a "marchpane"--was consumed by
the players when they required to eat upon the stage. In "Romeo and
Juliet" one of the servants says: "Good thou, save me a piece of
marchpane." In Marston's "What you Will" occurs the passage:

    Now work the cooks, the pastry sweats with slaves,
    The marchpanes glitter.

And in Brome's "City Wit" Mrs. Pyannet tells Toby Sneakup: "You have
your kickshaws, your players' marchpanes--all show and no meat."

Real macaroni in "Masaniello," and real champagne in "Don Giovanni,"
in order that Leporello may have opportunities for "comic business" in
the supper scene, are demanded by the customs of the operatic stage.
Realism generally, indeed, is greatly affected in the modern theatre.
The audiences of to-day require not merely that real water shall be
seen to flow from a pump, or to form a cataract, but that real wine
shall proceed from real bottles, and be fairly swallowed by the
performers. In Paris, a complaint was recently made that, in a scene
representing an entertainment in modern fashionable society, the
champagne supplied was only of a second-rate quality. Through powerful
opera-glasses the bottle labels could be read, and the management's
sacrifice of truthfulness to economy was severely criticised. The
audience resented the introduction of the cheaper liquor as though
they had themselves been constrained to drink it.

As part also of the modern regard for realism may be noted the
"cooking scenes" which have frequently figured in recent plays. The
old conjuring trick of making a pudding in a hat never won more
admiration than is now obtained by such simple expedients as frying
bacon or sausages, or broiling chops or steaks, upon the stage in
sight of the audience. The manufacture of paste for puddings or pies
by one of the _dramatis personæ_ has also been very favourably
received, and the first glimpse of the real rolling-pin and the real
flour to be thus employed has always been attended with applause. In a
late production, the opening of a soda-water bottle by one of the
characters was generally regarded as quite the most impressive effect
of the representation.

At Christmas-time, when the shops are so copiously supplied with
articles of food as to suggest a notion that the world is content to
live upon half-rations at other seasons of the year, there is
extraordinary storing of provisions at certain of the theatres. These
are not edible, however; they are due to the art of the
property-maker, and are designed for what are known as the "spill and
pelt" scenes of the pantomime. They represent juicy legs of mutton,
brightly streaked with red and white, quartern loaves, trussed fowls,
turnips, carrots, and cabbages, strings of sausages, fish of all
kinds, sizes, and colours; they are to be stolen and pocketed by the
clown, recaptured by the policeman, and afterwards wildly whirled in
all directions in a general "rally" of all the characters in the
harlequinade. They are but adroitly painted canvas stuffed with straw
or sawdust. No doubt the property-maker sometimes views from the wings
with considerable dismay the severe usage to which his works of art
are subjected. "He's an excellent clown, sir," one such was once heard
to say, regarding from his own standpoint the performance of the
jester in question; "he don't destroy the properties as some do."
Perhaps now and then, too, a minor actor or a supernumerary, who has
derided "the sham wine-parties of Macbeth and others," may lament the
scandalous waste of seeming good victuals in a pantomime. But, as a
rule, these performers are not fanciful on this, or, indeed, on any
other subject. They are not to be deceived by the illusions of the
stage; they are themselves too much a part of its shams and artifices.
Property legs of mutton are to them not even food for reflection but
simply "properties," and nothing more.



Wigs have claims to be considered amongst the most essential
appliances of the actors; means at once of their disguise and their
decoration. Without false hair the fictions of the stage could
scarcely be set forth. How could the old look young, or the young look
old, how could scanty locks be augmented, or baldness concealed, if
the _coiffeur_ did not lend his aid to the costumier? Nay, oftentimes
calvity has to be simulated, and fictitious foreheads of canvas
assumed. Hence the quaint advertisements of the theatrical hairdresser
in professional organs, that he is prepared to vend "old men's bald
pates" at a remarkably cheap rate. King Lear has been known to appear
without his beard--Mr. Garrick, as his portrait reveals, played the
part with a clean-shaven face, and John Kemble followed his example;
but could the ghost of Hamlet's father ever have defied the poet's
portraiture of him, and walked the platform of Elsinore Castle without
a "sable-silvered" chin? Has an audience ever viewed tolerantly a bald
Romeo, or a Juliet grown gray in learning how to impersonate that
heroine to perfection? It is clear that at a very early date the
players must have acquired the simple arts of altering and amending
their personal appearance in these respects.

The accounts still extant of the revels at court during the reigns of
Elizabeth and James contain many charges for wigs and beards. Thus a
certain John Ogle is paid "for four yeallowe heares for head-attires
for women, twenty-six shillings and eightpence;" and "for a pound of
heare twelvepence." Probably the auburn tresses of Elizabeth had made
blonde wigs fashionable. John Owgle, who is no doubt the same trader,
receives thirteen shillings and fourpence for "eight long white berds
at twenty pence the peece." He has charges also on account of "a black
fyzician's berde," "berds white and black," "heares for palmers,"
"berds for fyshers," &c. It would seem, however, that these adornments
were really made of silk. There is an entry: "John Ogle for curling of
heare made of black silk for Discord's heade (being sixty ounces),
price of his woorkmanshipp thereon only is seven shillings and
eightpence;" and mention is made of a delivery to Mrs. Swegoo the
silk-woman, of "Spanish silke of sundry cullers, weighing four ounces
and three quarters, at two shillings and sixpence the ounce, to
garnishe nine heads and nine scarfes for the nine muses; heads of
heare drest and trimmed at twenty-three shillings and fourpence the
peece, in all nine, ten pounds ten shillings."

The diary or account-book of Philip Henslowe, the manager, supplies
much information concerning the usual appointments of a theatre prior
to the year 1600. In his inventory of dresses and properties, bearing
date 1598, is included a record of "six head tiers," or attires. An
early and entertaining account of the contents of a theatrical
"tiring-room" is to be found in Richard Brome's comedy, "The
Antipodes," first published in 1640. Byeplay says of Peregrine, the
leading comic character:

    He has got into our tiring-house amongst us,
    And ta'en a strict survey of all our properties,
    Our statues and our images of gods,
    Our planets and our constellations,
    Our giants, monsters, furies, beasts, and bugbears,
    Our helmets, shields, and vizors, hairs and beards.

With the Restoration wigs came into general wear, and gradually the
beards and moustaches, which had literally flourished so remarkably
from the time of Elizabeth, were yielded to the razor. At this period
theatrical costume was simply regulated by the prevailing fashions,
and made no pretensions to historical truth or antiquarian
correctness. The actors appeared upon all occasions in the enormous
perukes that were introduced in the reign of Charles II., and
continued in vogue until 1720. The flowing flaxen wigs assumed by
Booth, Wilks, Cibber, and others, were said to cost some forty
guineas each. "Till within these twenty-five years," writes Tom Davies
in 1784, "our Tamberlanes and Catos had as much hair on their heads as
our judges on the bench." Cibber narrates how he sold a superb fair
full-bottomed periwig he had worn in 1695 in his first play, "The Fool
in Fashion," to Colonel Brett, so that the officer might appear to
advantage in his wooing of the Countess of Macclesfield, the lady
whom, upon unsatisfactory evidence, the poet Savage persistently
claimed as his mother.

But if the heroes of the theatre delighted in long flaxen hair, it was
always held necessary that the stage villain's should appear in
jet-black periwigs. For many years this continued to be an established
law of the drama. "What is the meaning," demanded Charles II., "that
we never see a rogue in the play but, odds-fish! they always clap him
on a black periwig, when it is well known one of the greatest rogues
in England always wears a fair one?" The king was understood to refer
to Titus Oates. But this custom was of long life. Davies describes
"certain actors who were cast into the parts of conspirators,
traitors, and murderers, who used to disguise themselves in large
black wigs, and to distort their features in order to appear terrible.
I have seen," he adds, "Hippesley act the First Murderer in 'Macbeth;'
his face was made pale with chalk, distinguished with large whiskers
and a long black wig." "Begin, murderer; leave thy damnable faces and
begin!" cries Hamlet to Lucianus, the poisoner; so that even in
Shakespeare's time grimness of aspect on the part of the stage villain
may have been thought indispensable. Churchill's friend, Lloyd, in his
admirable poem, "The Actor," published in 1762, writes on this head:

    To suit the dress demands the actor's art,
    Yet there are those who over-dress the part:
    To some prescriptive right gives settled things--
    Black wigs to murderers, feathered hats to kings.

Quin appeared upon the stage almost invariably in a profuse
full-bottomed periwig. Garrick brought into fashion a wig of much
smaller size, worn low on the forehead, with five crisp curls on
either side, and known generally as the "Garrick cut." But the great
actor occasionally varied the mode of his peruke. The portraits by
Wood, Sherwin, and Dance exhibit him in three different forms of
wigs. As Hotspur, he wore "a laced frock and Ramilies wig." When John
Kemble first played Hamlet he appeared in a black velvet court suit,
with laced ruffles and powdered hair, if not a periwig. It is to be
noted, however, that there was nothing in this system of dress to
shock the spectators of the time. Powdered wigs were the vogue, and it
was not considered strange that the actor should be attired similarly
to the audience. Some ventures had been made in the direction of
correctness of costume, but they had been regarded as rather dangerous
innovations. Garrick candidly confessed himself timid about the
matter. Benjamin West once inquired of the actor why he did not reform
the costume of the stage. "The audience would not stand it," said
Garrick; "they would throw a bottle at my head if I attempted any
alteration." The truth was, perhaps, that Garrick had won his triumphs
under the old system, and was disinclined, therefore, to risk any

Actors have often been zealous treasurers of theatrical properties and
appliances, and some have formed very curious collections of
stage-wigs. Munden, who was most heedful as to his appearance in the
theatre, always provided his own costume, wearing nothing that
belonged to the wardrobe of the manager, and giving large sums for any
dress that suited his fancy. His wigs were said to be of great
antiquity and value; they were in the care of, and daily inspected by,
a hairdresser attached to the theatre. Edwin's biography records that
that actor's "wiggery cost him more than a hundred pounds, and he
could boast of having perukes in his collection which had decorated
the heads of monarchs, judges, aldermen, philosophers, sailors,
jockeys, beaux, thieves, tailors, tinkers, and haberdashers." Suett,
also a great wig-collector, is reputed to have assumed on the stage,
in the burlesque of "Tom Thumb," a large black peruke with flowing
curls, that had once been the property of King Charles II. He had
purchased this curious relic at the sale of the effects of a Mr.
Rawle, accoutrement-maker to George III. When the wig was submitted
for sale, Suett took possession of it, and, putting it on his head,
began to bid for it with a gravity that the bystanders found to be
irresistibly comical. It was at once declared that the wig should
become the actor's property upon his own terms, and it was forthwith
knocked down to him by the auctioneer. The wig appeared upon the stage
during many years, until at last it was destroyed, with much other
valuable property, in the fire which burnt to the ground the
Birmingham Theatre. Suett's grief was extreme. "My wig's gone!" he
would say, mournfully, for some time after the fire, to every one he
met. Suett, Mathews, and Knight were at one time reputed to possess
the most valuable stock of wigs in the profession. Knight's collection
was valued, after his death, at £250.

The stage-wig is sometimes liable to unfortunate accidents. In the
turbulent scenes of tragedy, when the catastrophe is reached, and the
hero, mortally stricken, falls upon the stage heavily and rigidly, in
accordance with the ruling of immemorial tradition, the wig, like an
unskilful rider upon a restive steed, is apt to become unseated. Many
a defunct Romeo has been constrained to return to life for a moment in
order that he might entreat Juliet, in a whisper, just as her own
suicide is imminent, to contrive, if possible, a readjustment of his
wig, which, in the throes of his demise, had parted from his head, or,
at least, to fling her veil over him, and so conceal his mischance
from public observation. To Mr. Bensley, the tragedian, so much
admired by Charles Lamb, and so little by any other critic, a curious
accident is said to have happened. He was playing Richard III. in an
Irish theatre; the curtain had risen, and he was advancing to the
foot-lights to deliver his opening soliloquy, when an unlucky nail in
the side wing caught a curl of his full-flowing majestic wig and
dragged it from his head. He was a pedantic, solemn actor, with a
sepulchral voice and a stiff stalking gait. Anthony Pasquin has
recorded a derisive description of his histrionic method:

    With three minuet steps in all parts he advances,
    Then retires three more, strokes his chin, prates and prances,
    With a port as majestic as Astley's horse dances.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Should we judge of this man by his visage and note,
    We'd imagine a rookery built in his throat,
    Whose caws were immixed with his vocal recitals,
    While others stole downwards and fed on his vitals.

Still there can be no doubt that he played with extreme
conscientiousness, and was fully impressed with a sense of his
professional responsibilities. The loss of his wig must have
occasioned him acute distress. For a moment he hesitated. What was he
to do? Should he forget that he was Richard? Should he remember that
he was only Mr. Bensley? He resolved to ignore the accident, to
abandon his wig. Shorn of his locks, he delivered his speech in his
most impressive manner. Of course he had to endure many interruptions.
An Irish audience is rarely forbearing--has a very quick perception of
the ludicrous. The jeering and ironic cheering that arose must have
gravely tried the tragedian. "Mr. Bensley, darling, put on your
jasey!" cried the gallery. "Bad luck to your politics! Will you suffer
a Whig to be hung?" But the actor did not flinch. His exit was as
dignified and commanding as had been his entrance. He did not even
condescend to notice his wig as he passed it, depending from its nail
like a scarecrow. One of the attendants of the stage was sent on to
remove it, the duty being accomplished amidst the most boisterous
laughter and applause of the whole house.

Mr. Bernard, in his "Retrospections of the Stage," makes humorous
mention of a provincial manager of the last century who was always
referred to as "Pentland and his wig," from his persistent adherence
to an ancient peruke, which, as he declared, had once belonged to
Colley Cibber. The wig was of the pattern worn on state occasions by
the Lord Chief Justice of England, a structure of horsehair, that
descended to the shoulders in dense lappels. Pentland, who had been
fifty years a manager, was much bent with infirmity, and afflicted
with gout in all his members, still was wont to appear as the juvenile
heroes of the drama. But in his every part, whether Hamlet or Don
Felix, Othello or Lord Townley, he invariably assumed this formidable
wig. Altogether his aspect and performance must have been of an
extraordinary kind. He played Plume, the lively hero of Farquhar's
"Recruiting Officer," dressed in an old suit of regimentals, and
wearing above his famous wig a prodigious cocked hat. The rising of
the curtain discovered him seated in an easy-chair with his lower
limbs swathed in flannels. He was, indeed, unable to walk, or even to
stand, and throughout the performance had to be wheeled on and off the
stage. Surely light comedy was never seen under such disadvantageous
conditions. He endeavoured to compensate for his want of locomotive
power by taking snuff with great frequency, and waving energetically
in the air a large and soiled pocket-handkerchief. This Pentland,
indeed, appears to have been a curious example of the strolling
manager of the old school. His company consisted but of some
half-dozen performers, including himself, his wife, and his daughter.
He journeyed from town to town on a donkey, the faithful companion of
all his wanderings, with his gouty legs resting upon the panniers,
into which were packed the wardrobe and scenic embellishments of his
theatre. On these occasions he always wore his best light-comedy suit
of brown and gold, his inevitable wig, and a little three-cornered hat
cocked on one side, "giving the septuagenarian an air of gaiety that
well accorded with his known attachment to the rakes and heroes of the
drama; one hand was knuckled in his side--his favourite position--and
the other raised a pinch of snuff to his nose; and as he passed along
he nodded and bowed to all about him, and seemed greatly pleased with
the attention he excited." His company followed the manager on foot.
Yet for many years Mr. Pentland was the sole purveyor of theatrical
entertainments to several English counties, and did not shrink from
presenting to his audiences the most important works in the dramatic

When, in 1817, Edmund Kean played Eustache de Saint Pierre in the play
of "The Surrender of Calais," he designed to impress the town
powerfully by the help of a wig made after the pattern of Count
Ugolino's. "I'll frighten the audience with it," said he; but, as it
happened, the audience declined to be frightened. On the contrary,
when the actor appeared upon the scene he was only partially
recognised by the spectators. Some persons even inquired: "Who is that
fellow?" None cried: "God bless him!" The wig, in short, was not
appreciated, for all it was of elaborate construction, and stood up,
bristling with its gray hairs like a _chevaux de frise_. The tragedian
very soon gave up the part in disgust.

It is odd to find a stage wig invested with political significance,
viewed almost as a cabinet question, considered as a possible
provocation of hostilities between two great nations; yet something of
this kind happened some fifty years ago. Mr. Bunn, then manager of
Covent Garden Theatre, had adapted to the English stage Monsieur
Scribe's capital comedy of "Bertrand et Raton." The scene of the play,
it may be stated, is laid at Copenhagen, and the subject relates to
the intrigues that preceded the fall of Struensee in 1772. The
adaptation was duly submitted to George Colman, the examiner of plays,
and was by him forwarded to the Earl of Belfast, then Lord
Chamberlain, with an observation that the work contained nothing of a
kind that was inadmissible upon the English stage.

Suddenly a rumour was born, and rapidly attained growth and strength,
to the purport that the leading character of Count Bertrand was
designed to be a portraiture of Talleyrand, at that time the French
ambassador at the court of St. James's. Some hesitation arose as to
licensing the play, and on the 17th of January, 1834, the authorities
decided to prohibit its representation. Mr. Bunn sought an interview
with the Chamberlain, urging a reversal of the judgment, and
undertaking to make any retrenchments and modifications of the work
that might be thought expedient. The manager could only obtain a
promise that the matter should be further considered. Already the
stage had been a source of trouble to the political and diplomatic
world. It was understood that the Swedish ambassador had abruptly
withdrawn from the court of the Tuileries in consequence of the
production in Paris of a vaudeville called "Le Camarade au Lit,"
reflecting, so many held, upon the early life of Bernadotte, King of
Sweden. That nothing of this kind should happen in London the
Chamberlain was determined. He read the comedy most carefully and,
having marked several passages as objectionable, forwarded it to the
examiner, from whom, in due course, Mr. Bunn received the following
characteristic note:

     "January 20th, 1834.

     "MY DEAR B.--With all we have to do, I don't see how I can
     return the manuscript with alterations before to-morrow. Pray
     dine with me to-day at half-past five--but come at four. We
     shall then have time to cut the play before we cut the mutton.

     "Yours most truly,


Both these "cuttings" were successfully accomplished, and on the 25th
of January the comedy was officially licensed. Still the authorities
were uneasy. A suspicion prevailed that Mr. Farren, who was to sustain
the part of Bertrand, meditated dressing and "making up" after the
manner of Talleyrand. Sir Thomas Mash, the comptroller of the
Chamberlain's office, made direct inquiries in this respect. The
manager supplied a sketch of the costume to be worn by the actor. "I
knew it was to be submitted to the king," writes Mr. Bunn, and he
looked forward to the result with anxious curiosity. On the 7th of
February came an answer from Sir Thomas Mash. "I have the pleasure to
return your drawing without a syllable of objection." On the 8th,
"Bertrand et Raton," under the name of "The Minister and the Mercer,"
was first produced on the English stage.

The success of the performance was unquestionable, but the alarms of
the authorities were not over. Many of the players took upon
themselves to restore passages in the comedy which had been effaced by
the examiner; and, worse than this, Mr. Farren's appearance did not
correspond with the drawing sent to the Chamberlain's office. His wig
was especially objectionable; it was an exact copy of the silvery
silken tresses of Talleyrand, which had acquired a European celebrity.
It was plain that the actor had "made up" after the portrait of the
statesman in the well-known engravings of the Congress of Vienna. Mr.
Bunn had again to meet the angry expostulations of the Chamberlain. On
the 14th of February he wrote to Lord Belfast: "The passages bearing
reference to the Queen Matilda in conjunction with Struensee having
been entirely omitted, will, I trust, be satisfactory to your
lordship. Until the evening of performance I was not aware what style
of wig Mr. Farren meant to adopt, such matters being entirely at the
discretion of performers of his standard. I have since mentioned to
him the objections which have been pointed out to me, but he has sent
me word that he cannot consent so to mutilate his appearance, adding
that it is a wig he wore two years ago in a comedy called 'Lords and
Commons.'" If this was true there can be little doubt that the wig had
been dressed anew and curling-ironed into a Talleyrand form that had
not originally pertained to it. Meantime King William IV. had stirred
in the matter, despatching his Chamberlain to the Lords Grey and
Palmerston. "They--said to be exceedingly irate--instantly attended
the performance. In the box exactly opposite to the one they occupied,
sat, however, the gentleman himself, _l'homme véritable_, his
Excellency Prince Talleyrand, _in propriâ personâ_, and he laughed so
heartily at the play, without once exhibiting any signs of annoyance
at the appearance of his supposed prototype, that the whole affair
wore a most absurd aspect; and thus terminated a singular specimen of
'great cry and little wool.'"

A stage wig has hardly since this risen to the importance of a state
affair. Yet the Chamberlain has sometimes interfered to stay any
direct stage portraiture of eminent characters. Thus Mr. Buckstone was
prohibited from appearing "made up" as Lord John Russell, and Mr. A.
Wigan, when performing the part of a French naval officer some
five-and-twenty years ago, was directed by the authorities to reform
his aspect, which too much resembled, it was alleged, the portraits of
the Prince de Joinville. The actor effected a change in this instance
which did not much mend the matter. It was understood at the time
indeed that he had simply made his costume more correct, and otherwise
had rather heightened than diminished his resemblance to the son of
Louis Philippe. Other stage-wig questions have been of minor
import--relating chiefly to the appropriateness of the _coiffures_ of
Hamlet and others. Should the Prince wear flaxen tresses or a
"Brutus"? Should the Moor of Venice appear in a negro's close woolly
curls, or are flowing locks permissible to him? These inquiries have a
good deal exercised the histrionic profession from time to time. And
there have been doubts about hair-powder and its compatibility with
tragic purposes. Mademoiselle Mars, the famous French actress, decided
upon defying accuracy of costume, and declined to wear a powdered wig
in a serious part. Her example was followed by Rachel, Ristori, and
others. When Auber's "Gustave, ou le Bal Masqué," was in rehearsal,
the singers complained of the difficulty they experienced in
expressing passionate sentiments in the powdered wigs and stately
dress of the time of Louis XV. In the masquerade they were therefore
permitted to assume such costumes as seemed to them suited to the
violent catastrophe of the story. They argued that _"le moindre geste
violent peut exciter le rire en provoquant l'explosion d'un nuage
blanc; les artistes sont donc contraints de se tenir dans une réserve
et dans une immobilité qui jettent du froid sur toutes les
situations."_ It is true that Garrick and his contemporaries wore
hair-powder, and that in their hands the drama certainly did not lack
vehemently emotional displays. But then the spectators were in like
case; and _"explosions d'un nuage blanc"_ were probably of too common
occurrence to excite derision or even attention.

Wigs are still matters of vital interest to the actors, and it is to
be noted that the theatrical hairdressers have of late years devoted
much study to this branch of their industry. The light comedian still
indulges sometimes in curls of an unnatural flaxen, and the comic
countryman is too often allowed to wear locks of a quite impossible
crimson colour. Indeed, the headdresses that seem only contrived to
move the laughter of the gallery, yet remain in an unsatisfactory
condition. But in what are known as "character wigs" there has been
marked amendment. The fictitious forehead is now very often artfully
joined on to the real brow of the performer, without those distressing
discrepancies of hue and texture which at one time were so very
apparent, disturbing credibility and destroying illusion. And the
decline of hair in colour and quantity has often been imitated in the
theatre with very happy ingenuity. Heads in an iron-gray or partially
bald state--varying from the first slight thinning of the locks to the
time when they come to be combed over with a kind of "cat's cradle" or
trellis-work look, to veil absolute calvity--are now represented by
the actors with a completeness of a most artistic kind. With the
ladies of the theatre blond wigs are now almost to be regarded as
necessaries of histrionic life. This may be only a transient fashion,
although it seems to have obtained very enduring vitality. Dr. Véron,
writing of his experiences as manager of the Paris Opera House forty
years ago, affirms: _"Il y a des beautés de jour et des beautés du
soir; une peau brune, jaune, ou noire, devient blanche à éclat de la
lumière; les cheveux noirs réussissent mieux aussi au théâtre que les
cheveux blonds."_ But the times have changed; the arts of the
theatrical toilet have no doubt advanced greatly. On the stage now all
complexions are brilliant, and light tresses are pronounced to be more
admirable than dark. Yet Dr. Véron was not without skill and learning
on these curious matters. He discourses learnedly in regard to the
cosmetics of the theatre--paint and powder, Indian ink and carmine,
and the chemical preparations necessary for the due fabrication of
eyebrows and lashes, for making the eyes look larger than life, for
colouring the cheeks and lips, and whitening the nose and forehead.
And especially the manager took pride in the capillary artifices of
his establishment, and employed an "artist in hair," who held almost
arrogant views of his professional acquirements. "My claim to the
grateful remembrance of posterity," this superb _coiffeur_ was wont to
observe, "will consist in the fact that I made the wig in which
Monsieur Talma performed his great part of Sylla!" The triumphs of the
scene are necessarily short-lived; they exist only in the recollection
of actual spectators, and these gradually dwindle and depart as Time
goes and Death comes. Nevertheless something of this wig-maker's fame
still survives, although Talma has been dead nearly half a century.

As Sylla, Talma was "made up" to resemble the first Napoleon. Macready
writes in his "Journal" of Talma's appearance as Sylla: "The toga sat
upon him as if it had been his daily costume. His _coiffure_ might
have been taken from an antique bust; but was in strict resemblance of
Napoleon's. It was reported that several passages had been struck out
of the text by the censor, under the apprehension of their application
by the Parisians to the exiled Emperor; and an order was said to have
been sent from the police forbidding Talma to cross his hands behind
him, the ordinary habit of Napoleon." The tragedy of "Sylla" was
written by M. Jouy, and was first performed at the Théâtre Francais in



It is clear that playgoers of the Shakespearean period dearly loved to
see a battle represented upon the stage. The great poet thoroughly
understood his public, and how to gratify it. In some fifteen of his
plays he has introduced the encounter or the marshalling of hostile
forces. "Alarums and excursions" is with him a very frequent stage
direction; and as much may be said of "they fight," or "_exeunt_
fighting." Combats and the clash of arms he obviously did not count as
"inexplicable dumb show and noise." He was conscious, however, that
the battles of the stage demanded a very large measure of faith on the
part of the spectators. Of necessity they were required to "make
believe" a good deal. In the prologue to "Henry V." especial apology
is advanced for the presumption of the dramatist in dealing with so
comprehensive a subject; and indulgence is claimed for the unavoidable
feebleness of the representation as compared with the force of the

    Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
    Into a thousand parts divide one man,
    And make imaginary puissance:
    Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
    Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
    For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
    Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times;
    Turning th' accomplishment of many years
    Into an hour-glass.

These conditions, however, were accepted by the audiences of the time
in the most liberal spirit. Critics were prone to deride the popular
liking for "cutler's work" and "the horrid noise of target fight;"
"the fools in the yard" were censured for their "gaping and gazing" at
such exhibitions. But the battles of the stage were still fought on;
"alarums and excursions" continued to engage the scene. Indeed,
variety and stir have always been elements in the British drama as
opposed to the uniformity and repose which were characteristics of the
ancient classical theatre.

Yet our early audiences must have been extremely willing to help out
the illusions of the performance, and abet the tax thus levied upon
their credulity. Shakespeare's battles could hardly have been very
forcibly presented. In his time no "host of auxiliaries" assisted the
company. "Two armies flye in," Sir Philip Sidney writes in his
"Apologie for Poetrie," 1595, "represented with four swords and
bucklers, and what harde heart will not receive it for a pitched
fielde?" So limited an array would not be deemed very impressive in
these days; but it was held sufficient by the lieges of Elizabeth.
Just as the Irish peasant is even now content to describe a mere squad
of soldiers as "the army," so Shakespeare's audiences were willing to
regard a few "blue-coated stage-keepers" as a formidable body of
troops. And certainly the poet sometimes exercised to the utmost the
imaginations of his patrons. He required them to believe that his
small stage was immeasurably spacious; that his handful of "supers"
was in truth a vast multitude. During one scene in "King John" he does
not hesitate to bring together upon the boards the three distinct
armies of Philip of France, the Archduke of Austria, and the King of
England; while, in addition, the citizens of Angiers are supposed to
appear upon the walls of their town and discuss the terms of its
capitulation. So in "King Richard III.," Bosworth Field is
represented, and the armies of Richard and Richmond are made to encamp
within a few feet of each other. The ghosts of Richard's victims rise
from the stage and address speeches alternately to him and to his
opponent. Playgoers who can look back a score of years may remember a
textual revival of the tragedy, in which this scene was exhibited in
exact accordance with the original stage directions. Colley Cibber's
famous acting version was for once discarded, and Richard and Richmond
on the eve of their great battle quietly retired to rest in the
presence of each other, and of their audience. However to be
commended on the score of its fidelity to the author's intentions, the
scene had assuredly its ludicrous side. The rival tents wore the
aspect of opposition shower-baths. It was exceedingly difficult to
humour the idea that the figures occupying the stage could neither see
nor hear one another. Why, if they but outstretched their arms they
could have touched each other; and they were supposed to be mutually
eager for combat to the death! It became manifest, indeed, that the
spectators had lost greatly their ancestors' old power of "making
believe." They could no longer hold their reason in suspense for the
sake of enhancing the effect of a theatrical performance, though
prepared to be indulgent in that respect. What is called "realism" had
invaded the stage since Shakespeare's time, and could not now be
repelled or denied. Hints and suggestions did not suffice; the
positive and the actual had become indispensable.

There can be no doubt, however, that Shakespeare's battles had
oftentimes the important aid of real gunpowder. The armies might be
small; but the noise that accompanied their movements was surely very
great. The stage direction "alarums and chambers go off" occurs more
than once in "King Henry V." The Chorus to the play expressly states:

    Behold the ordnance on their carriages,
    With fatal mouths gaping on girded Harfleur;
                   ... and the nimble gunner
    With linstook now the devilish cannon touches,
    And down goes all before them.

Gunpowder was even employed in plays wherein battles were not
introduced. Thus at the close of "Hamlet," Fortinbras says: "Go bid
the soldiers shoot," and the stage direction runs: "A dead march.
_Exeunt_ bearing off the dead bodies; after which a peal of ordnance
is shot _off_." And just as, in 1846, the Garrick Theatre, in
Goodman's Fields, was destroyed by fire, owing to some wadding lodging
in the flies after a performance of the Battle of Waterloo, so in
1613, the Globe Theatre, in Southwark, was burnt to the ground from
the firing of "chambers" during a representation of "King Henry VIII."
Howes, in his additions to "Stowe's Chronicle," thus describes the
event: "Also upon St. Peter's Day, 1613, the playhouse or theatre
called the Globe, upon the Bankside, near London, by negligent
discharging of a peal of ordnance, close to the south side thereof,
the theatre took fire, and the wind suddenly dispersed the flame round
about, and in a very short space the whole building was quite consumed
and no man hurt; the house being filled with people to behold the
play, namely, of 'Henry VIII.;' and the next spring it was new builded
in a far fairer manner than before."

The paucity of Shakespeare's stage armies has sometimes found its
reflex in the limited means of country theatres of more modern date.
The ambition of strolling managers is apt to be far in advance of
their appliances; they are rarely stayed by the difficulties of
representation, or troubled with doubts as to the adequacy of their
troupe, in the words of a famous commander, to "go anywhere and do
anything." We have heard of a provincial Rolla who at the last moment
discovered that the army, wherewith he proposed to repulse the forces
of Pizarro, consisted of one supernumerary only. The Peruvian
chieftain proved himself equal to the situation, however, and adapted
his speech to the case. Addressing his one soldier, he declaimed in
his most dignified manner: "My brave associate, partner of my toil, my
feelings, and my fame, can Rolla's words add vigour to the virtuous
energies which inspire your heart?" and so on. Thus altered, the
speech was found to be sufficiently effective.

In his "Essay of Dramatic Poesy," Dryden complains of the "tumults to
which we are subject in England by representing duels, battles, and
the like, which renders our stage too like the theatres where they
fight prizes. For what is more ridiculous than to represent an army
with a drum and four men behind it, all which the hero of the other
side is to drive before him? or to see a duel fought and one slain
with two or three thrusts of the foils, which we know are so blunted
that we might give a man an hour to kill another in good earnest with

Two things were especially prized by the audiences of the past: a
speech and a combat. "For God's sake, George, give me a speech and let
me go home!" cried from the pit the wearied country squire of Queen
Anne's time to his boon companion Powell, the actor, doomed to appear
in a part deficient in opportunities for oratory. "But, Mr. Bayes,
might we not have a little fighting?" inquires Johnson, in the
burlesque of "The Rehearsal," "for I love those plays where they cut
and slash one another on the stage for a whole hour together."

The single combats that occur in Shakespeare's plays are very
numerous. There is little need to remind the reader, for instance, of
the hand-to-hand encounters of Macbeth and Macduff, Posthumus and
Iachimo, Hotspur and the Prince of Wales, Richard and Richmond. Romeo
has his fierce brawl with Tybalt, Hamlet his famous fencing scene, and
there is serious crossing of swords both in "Lear" and "Othello."
English audiences, from an inherent pugnacity, or a natural
inclination for physical feats, were wont to esteem highly the combats
of the stage. The players were skilled in the use of their weapons,
and would give excellent effect to their mimic conflicts. And this
continued long after the wearing of swords had ceased to be a
necessity or a fashion. The youthful actor acquired the art of fencing
as an indispensable step in his theatrical education. A sword was one
of the earliest "properties" of which he became possessor. He always
looked forward to impressing his audience deeply by his skill in
combat. Charles Mathews, the elder, has recorded in his too brief
chapters of autobiography, "his passion for fencing which nothing
could overcome." As an amateur actor he paid the manager of the
Richmond Theatre seven guineas and a half for permission to undertake
"the inferior insipid part of Richmond," who does not appear until the
fifth act of the play. The Richard of the night was a brother-amateur,
equally enthusiastic, one Litchfield by name. "I cared for nothing,"
wrote Mathews, "except the last scene of Richmond, but in that I was
determined, to have my full swing of carte and tierce. I had no notion
of paying my seven guineas and a half without indulging my passion. In
vain did the tyrant try to die after a decent time; in vain did he
give indications of exhaustion; I would not allow him to give in. I
drove him by main force from any position convenient for his last
dying speech. The audience laughed; I heeded them not. They shouted; I
was deaf. Had they hooted I should have lunged on in my
unconsciousness of their interruption. I was resolved to show them all
my accomplishments. Litchfield frequently whispered 'Enough!' but I
thought with Macbeth, 'Damned be he who first cries, Hold, enough!' I
kept him at it, and I believe we fought almost literally a long hour
by Shrewsbury clock. To add to the merriment, a matter-of-fact fellow
in the gallery, who in his innocence took everything for reality, and
who was completely wrapt up and lost by the very cunning of the scene,
at last shouted out: 'Why don't he shoot him?'"

The famous Mrs. Jordan was, it seems, unknown to Mathews, present
among the audience on this occasion, having been attracted from her
residence at Bushey by the announcement of an amateur Richard. "Years
afterwards," records Mathews, "when we met in Drury Lane green-room, I
was relating, amongst other theatrical anecdotes, the bumpkin's call
from the gallery in commiseration of the trouble I had in killing
Richard, when she shook me from my feet almost by starting up,
clasping her hands, and in her fervent, soul-stirring, warm-hearted
tones, exclaiming: 'Was that you? I was there!' and she screamed with
laughter at the recollection of my acting in Richmond, and the length
of our combat."

"Where shall I hit you, Mr. Kean?" inquired a provincial Laertes of
the great tragedian. "Where you _can_, sir," was the grim reply. For
Kean had acquired fencing under Angelo, and was proud of his
proficiency in the art. He delighted in prolonging his combats to the
utmost, and invested them with extraordinary force and intensity. On
some occasions he so identified himself with the character he
represented as to decline to yield upon almost any terms. Hazlitt
censures certain excesses of this kind which disfigured his
performance of Richard. "He now actually fights with his doubled
fists, after his sword is taken from him, like some helpless infant."
"The fight," writes another critic, "was maintained under various
vicissitudes, by one of which he was thrown to the earth; on his knee
he defended himself, recovered his footing, and pressed his antagonist
with renewed fury; his sword was struck from his grasp--he was
mortally wounded; disdaining to fall"--and so on. No wonder that many
Richmonds and Macduffs, after combating with Mr. Kean, were left so
exhausted and scant of breath as to be scarcely able to deliver
audibly the closing speeches of their parts. The American stage has a
highly-coloured story of an English melodramatic actor with the
pseudonym of Bill Shipton, who, "enacting a British officer in 'The
Early Life of Washington,' got so stupidly intoxicated that when Miss
Cuff, who played the youthful hero, had to fight and kill him in a
duel, Bill Shipton wouldn't die; he even said loudly on the stage
that he wouldn't. Mary Cuff fought on until she was ready to faint,
and after she had repeated his cue for dying, which was, 'Cowardly,
hired assassin!' for the fourteenth time, he absolutely jumped off the
stage, not even pretending to be on the point of death. Our indignant
citizens then chased him all over the house, and he only escaped by
jumping into the coffin which they bring on in Hamlet, Romeo, and
Richard." The story has its humour, but is not to be implicitly

Broad-sword combats were at one time very popular interludes at minor
theatres. They were often quite distinct performances, prized for
their own sake, and quite irrespective of their dramatic relevancy. It
cannot be said that they suggested much resemblance to actual warfare.
Still they demanded of the performers skill of a peculiar kind, great
physical endurance and ceaseless activity. The combat-sword was an
unlikely-looking weapon, very short in the blade, with a protuberant
hilt of curved bars to protect the knuckles of the combatant. The
orchestra supplied a strongly-accentuated tune, and the swords clashed
together in strict time with the music. The fight raged hither and
thither about the stage, each blow and parry, thrust and guard, being
a matter of strict pre-arrangement. The music was hurried or slackened
accordingly as the combat became more or less furious. "One, two,
three, and under; one, two, three, and over;" "robber's cuts;"
"sixes"--the encounter had an abundance of technical terms. And each
performer was allowed a fair share of the feats accomplished: the
combatants took turns in executing the strangest exploits. Alternately
they were beaten down on one knee, even lower still, till they crawled
serpent-wise about the boards; they leaped into the air to avoid
chopping blows at their lower members; they suddenly span round on
their heels, recovering themselves in time to guard a serious blow,
aimed with too much deliberation at some vital portion of their
frames; occasionally they contrived an unexpected parry by swiftly
passing the sword from the right hand to the left. Now and then they
fought a kind of double combat, wielding a sword in either hand.
Altogether, indeed, it was an extraordinary entertainment, which
evoked thunders of applause from the audience. The eccentric agility
of the combatants, the peculiarities of their method of engagement,
the stirring staccato music of the band, the clashing of the swords
and the shower of sparks thus occasioned, were found quite
irresistible by numberless playgoers. Mr. Crummles, it will be
remembered, had a very high opinion of this form of entertainment.

Of late, however, the broadsword combat has declined as a theatrical
attraction if it has not altogether expired. The art involved in its
presentment is less studied, or its professors are less capable than
was once the case. And perhaps burlesque has exposed too glaringly its
ridiculous or seamy side. It was not one of those things that could
long endure the assaults of travesty. The spell was potent enough in
its way, but it dissolved when once interruptive laughter became
generally audible. A creature of theatrical tradition, curiously
sophisticated and enveloped in absurdities, its long survival is
perhaps more surprising than the fact of its decease. Some attempt at
ridiculing it seems to have been made so far back as the seventeenth
century, in the Duke of Buckingham's "Rehearsal." Two characters
enter, each bearing a lute and a drawn sword, and alternately fight
and sing; "so that," as Bayes explains, "you have at once your ear
entertained with music and good language, and your eye satisfied with
the garb and accoutrements of war." In the same play, also, the actors
were wont to introduce hobby-horses, and fight a mimic battle of very
extravagant nature.

Ridicule of a stage army was one of the established points of humour
in the old burlesque of "Bombastes Furioso," and many a pantomime has
won applause by the comical character of the troops brought upon the
scene. It should be said, however, that of late years the more famous
battles of the theatre have been reproduced with remarkable liberality
and painstaking. In lieu of "four swords and bucklers," a very
numerous army of supernumeraries has marched to and fro upon the
boards. In the ornate revivals of Shakespeare, undertaken from time to
time by various managers, especial attention has been directed to the
effective presentment of the battle scenes. The "auxiliaries" have
frequently consisted of soldiers selected from the household troops.
They are reputed to be the best of "supers," imposing of aspect,
stalwart and straight-limbed, obedient to command, and skilled in
marching and military formations. Londoners, perhaps, are little aware
of the services their favourite regiments are prompt to lend to
theatrical representations. Notably our grand operas owe much to the
Coldstreams and Grenadiers. After a performance of "Le Prophète" or
"L'Etoile du Nord," let us say, hosts of these warriors may be seen
hurrying from Covent Garden back to their barracks. Plays that have
depended for their success solely upon the battles they have
introduced have not been frequent of late years, and perhaps their
popularity may fairly be counted as a thing of the past. We have left
behind us the times when versatile Mr. Gomersal was found submitting
to the public by turns his impersonation of Napoleon at Waterloo and
Sir Arthur Wellesley at Seringapatam; when Shaw, the Lifeguardsman,
after performing prodigies of valour, died heroically to slow music;
when Lady Sale, armed with pistol and sabre, fought against heavy
Afghan odds, and came off supremely victorious. Perhaps the public
have ceased to care for history thus theatrically illustrated, or
prefers to gather its information on the subject from despatches and
special correspondence. The last theatrical venture of this class
referred to our army's exploits in Abyssinia. But the play did not
greatly please. Modern battles have, indeed, outgrown the stage, and
the faculty of making "imaginary puissance" has become lost. In the
theatre, as elsewhere, the demand is now for the literal, the
accurate, and the strictly matter of fact.



Addison accounted "thunder and lightning--which are often made use of
at the descending of a god or the rising of a ghost, at the vanishing
of a devil or the death of a tyrant"--as occupying the first place
"among the several artifices put in practice by the poets to fill the
minds of an audience with terror." Certainly the stage owes much to
its storms: they have long been highly prized both by playwrights and
playgoers, as awe-inspiring embellishments of the scene; and it must
have been an early occupation of the theatrical machinist to devise
some means of simulating the uproar of elemental strife. So far back
as 1571, in the "Accounts of the Revels at Court," there appears a
charge of £1 2s. paid to a certain John Izarde, for "mony to him due
for his device in counterfeting thunder and lightning in the play of
'Narcisses;' and for sundry necessaries by him spent therein;" while
to Robert Moore, the apothecary, a sum of £1 7s. 4d. is paid for
"prepared corianders," musk, clove, cinnamon, and ginger comfits, rose
and "spike" water, "all which," it is noted, "served for flakes of
snow and haylestones in the maske of 'Janus;' the rose-water sweetened
the balls made for snow-balls, and presented to her majesty by Janus."
The storm in this masque must clearly have been of a very elegant and
courtly kind, with sugar-plums for hailstones and perfumed water for
rain. The tempests of the public theatres were assuredly conducted
after a ruder method. In his prologue to "Every Man in his Humour,"
Ben Jonson finds occasion to censure contemporary dramatists for the
"ill customs" of their plays, and to warn the audience that his
production is not as others are:

    He rather prays you will be pleased to see
    One such to-day as other plays should be;
    Where neither chorus wafts you o'er the seas,
    Nor creaking throne comes down the boys to please,
    Nor nimble squib is seen to make afeard
    The gentlewomen; nor rolled bullet heard
    To say it thunders; nor tempestuous drum
    Rumbles to tell you when the storm doth come, &c.

It has been conjectured that satirical allusion was here intended to
the writings of Shakespeare; yet it is certain that Shakespeare
sustained a part, most probably that of Old Knowell, in the first
representation of Jonson's comedy. Storms are undoubtedly of frequent
occurrence in Shakespeare's plays. Thus, "Macbeth" and "The Tempest"
both open with thunder and lightning; there is "loud weather" in "The
Winter's Tale;" there is thunder in "The First Part of King Henry
VI.," when La Pucelle invokes the fiends to aid her endeavours;
thunder and lightning in "The Second Part of King Henry VI.," when
Margery Jourdain conjures up the spirit Asmath; thunder and lightning
in "Julius Cæsar;" a storm at sea in "Pericles," and a hurricane in
"King Lear." It is to be noted, however, that all these plays could
hardly have been represented so early as 1598, when "Every Man in his
Humour" was first performed.

From Jonson's prologue it appears that the rumbling of thunder was at
that time imitated by the rolling to and fro of bullets or
cannon-balls. This plan was in time superseded by more ingenious
contrivances. It is curious to find, however, that some fifty years
ago one Lee, manager of the Edinburgh Theatre, with a view to
improving the thunder of his stage, ventured upon a return to the
Elizabethan system of representing a storm. His enterprise was
attended with results at once ludicrous and disastrous. He placed
ledges here and there along the back of his stage, and, obtaining a
parcel of nine-pound cannon-balls, packed these in a wheelbarrow,
which a carpenter was instructed to wheel to and fro over the ledges.
The play was "Lear," and the jolting of the heavy barrow as it was
trundled along its uneven path over the hollow stage, and the
rumblings and reverberations thus produced, counterfeited most
effectively the raging of the tempest in the third act. Unfortunately,
however, while the King was braving, in front of the scene, the
pitiless storm at the back, the carpenter missed his footing, tripped
over one of the ledges, and fell down, wheelbarrow, cannon-balls, and
all. The stage being on a declivity, the cannon-balls came rolling
rapidly and noisily down towards the front, gathering force as they
advanced, and overcoming the feeble resistance offered by the scene,
struck it down, passed over its prostrate form, and made their way
towards the foot-lights and the fiddlers, amidst the amusement and
wonder of the audience, and the amazement and alarm of the Lear of the
night. As the nine-pounders advanced towards him, and rolled about in
all directions, he was compelled to display an activity in avoiding
them, singularly inappropriate to the age and condition of the
character he was personating. He was even said to resemble a dancer
achieving the terpsichorean feat known as the egg hornpipe. Presently,
too, the musicians became alarmed for the safety of themselves and
their instruments, and deemed it advisable to scale the spiked
partition which divided them from the pit; for the cannon-balls were
upon them, smashing the lamps, and falling heavily into the orchestra.
Meantime, exposed to the full gaze of the house, lay prone, beside his
empty barrow, the carpenter, the innocent invoker of the storm he had
been unable to allay or direct, not at all hurt, but exceedingly
frightened and bewildered. After this unlucky experiment, the manager
abandoned his wheelbarrow and cannon-balls, and reverted to more
received methods of producing stage storms.

In 1713, a certain Dr. Reynardson published a poem called "The Stage,"
which the critics of the time agreed to be a pretty and ingenious
composition. It was dedicated to Addison, the preface stating that
"'The Spectator's' account of 'The Distrest Mother' had raised the
author's expectation to such a pitch that he made an excursion from
college to see that tragedy acted, and upon his return was commanded
by the dean to write upon the Art, Rise, and Progress of the English
Stage; which how well he has performed is submitted to the judgment of
that worthy gentleman to whom it is inscribed." Dr. Reynardson's poem
is not a work of any great distinction, and need only be referred to
here for its mention of the means then in use for raising the storms
of the theatre. Noting the strange and incongruous articles to be
found in the tiring-room of the players--such as Tarquin's trousers
and Lucretia's vest, Roxana's coif and Statira's stays, the poet

    Hard by a quart of bottled lightning lies
    A bowl of double use and monstrous size,
    Now rolls it high and rumbles in its speed,
    Now drowns the weaker crack of mustard-seed;
    So the true thunder all arrayed in smoke,
    Launched from the skies now rives the knotted oak,
    And sometimes naught the drunkard's prayers prevail,
    And sometimes condescends to sour the ale.

There is also allusion to the mustard-bowl as applied to theatrical
uses in "The Dunciad:"

    "Now turn to different sports," the goddess cries,
    "And learn, my sons, the wondrous power of NOISE.
    To move, to raise, to ravish every heart,
    With Shakespeare's nature or with Jonson's art,
    Let others aim; 'tis yours to shake the soul
    With thunder rumbling from the mustard-bowl."

And further reference to the frequency of stage storms is continued in
the well-known lines, written by way of parodying the mention of the
Duke of Marlborough in Addison's poem "The Campaign:"

    Immortal Rich! how calm he sits at ease,
    'Mid snows of paper and fierce hail of pease;
    And proud his mistress' orders to perform,
    Rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm.

A note to the early editions of "The Dunciad" explains that the old
ways of making thunder and mustard were the same, but that of late the
thunder had been advantageously simulated by means of "troughs of wood
with stops in them." "Whether Mr. Dennis was the inventor of that
improvement, I know not," writes the annotator; "but it is certain
that being once at a tragedy of a new author he fell into a great
passion at hearing some, and cried: ''Sdeath! that is my thunder.'"
Dennis's thunder was first heard on the production at Drury Lane
Theatre, in 1709, of his "Appius and Virginia," a hopelessly dull
tragedy, which not even the united exertions of Booth, Wilkes, and
Betterton could keep upon the stage for more than four nights. "The
Dunciad" was written in 1726, when Pope either did not really know
that the old mustard-bowl style of storm was out of date, or purposely
refrained from mentioning the recent invention of "troughs of wood
with stops in them."

In July, 1709, Drury-lane Theatre was closed by order of the Lord
Chamberlain, whereon Addison published in "The Tatler" a facetious
inventory of the goods and movables of Christopher Rich, the manager,
to be disposed of in consequence of his "breaking up housekeeping."
Among the effects for sale are mentioned:

    A mustard-bowl to make thunder with.

    Another of a bigger sort, by Mr. D----'s directions, little used.

The catalogue is not of course to be viewed seriously, or it might be
inferred that Dennis's new thunder was still something of the
mustard-bowl sort. Other items relative to the storms of the stage and
their accessories are:

     Spirits of right Nantz brandy for lambent flames and

     Three bottles and a half of lightning.

     A sea consisting of a dozen large waves, the tenth bigger than
     ordinary, and a little damaged.

(According to poetic authority, it may be noted, the tenth wave is
always the largest and most dangerous.)

     A dozen and a half of clouds trimmed with black, and well

     A set of clouds after the French mode, streaked with lightning
     and furbelowed.

     One shower of snow in the whitest French paper.

     Two showers of a browner sort.

It is probably to this mention of snow-storms we owe the familiar
theatrical story of the manager who, when white paper failed him, met
the difficulty of the situation by snowing brown.

The humours of the theatre afforded great diversion to the writers in
"The Spectator," and the storms of the stage are repeatedly referred
to in their essays. In 1771, Steele, discoursing about inanimate
performers, published a fictitious letter from "the Salmoneus of
Covent Garden," demanding pity and favour on account of the unexpected
vicissitudes of his fortune. "I have for many years past," he writes,
"been thunderer to the playhouse; and have not only made as much noise
out of the clouds as any predecessor of mine in the theatre that ever
bore that character, but have also descended, and spoke on the stage
as the Bold Thunderer in 'The Rehearsal.' When they got me down thus
low, they thought fit to degrade me further, and make me a ghost. I
was contented with this for these last two winters; but they carry
their tyranny still further, and not satisfied that I am banished from
above ground, they have given me to understand that I am wholly to
depart from their dominions, and taken from me even my subterraneous
employment." He concludes with a petition that his services may be
engaged for the performance of a new opera to be called "The
Expedition of Alexander," the scheme of which had been set forth in an
earlier "Spectator," and that if the author of that work "thinks fit
to use firearms, as other authors have done, in the time of Alexander,
I may be a cannon against Porus; or else provide for me in the burning
of Persepolis, or what other method you shall think fit."

In 1714, Addison wrote: "I look upon the playhouse as a world within
itself. They have lately furnished the middle region of it with a new
set of meteors in order to give the sublime to many modern tragedies.
I was there last winter at the first rehearsal of the new thunder,
which is much more deep and sonorous than any hitherto made use of.
They have a Salmoneus behind the scenes, who plays it off with great
success. Their lightnings are made to flash more briskly than
heretofore; their clouds are also better furbelowed and more
voluminous; not to mention a violent storm locked up in a great chest
that is designed for 'The Tempest.' They are also provided with a
dozen showers of snow, which, as I am informed, are the plays of many
unsuccessful poets, artificially cut and shredded for that vise." In
an earlier "Spectator" he had written: "I have often known a bell
introduced into several tragedies with good effect, and have seen the
whole assembly in a very great alarm all the while it has been
ringing." Pope has his mention in "The Dunciad" of the same artifice:

    With horns and trumpets now to madness swell.
    Now sink in sorrow with a tolling bell;
    Such happy arts attention can command,
    When fancy flags and sense is at a stand.

The notion of storing lightning in a bottle for use when required
seems to have been frequently reverted to by the authors of the last
century as a means of entertaining the public. Thus a writer in "The
World," in 1754, makes no doubt "of being able to bring thunder and
lightning to market at a much cheaper price than common gunpowder,"
and describes a friend who has applied himself wholly to electrical
experiments, and discovered that "the most effectual and easy method
of making this commodity is by grinding a certain quantity of air
between a glass ball and a bag of sand, and when you have ground it
into fire your lightning is made, and then you may either bottle it
up, or put it into casks properly seasoned for that purpose, and send
it to market." The inventor, however, confesses that what he has
hitherto made is not of a sufficient degree of strength to answer all
the purposes of natural lightning; but he is confident that he will
soon be able to effect this, and has, indeed, already so far perfected
his experiments that, in the presence of several of his neighbours, he
has succeeded in producing a clap of thunder which blew out a candle,
accompanied by a flash of lightning which made an impression upon a
pat of butter standing upon the table. He is also confident that in
warm weather he can shake all the pewters upon his shelf, and fully
expects, when his thermometer is at sixty-two degrees and a half, to
be able to sour all the small beer in his cellar, and to break his
largest pier-glass. This paper in "The World," apart from its humorous
intention, is curious as a record of early dabblings in electrical
experiments. It may be mentioned that in one of Franklin's letters,
written apparently before the year 1750, the points of resemblance
between lightning and the spark obtained by friction from an
electrical apparatus are distinctly stated. It is but some thirty-five
years ago that Andrew Crosse, the famous amateur electrician, was
asked by an elderly gentleman, who came to witness his experiments
with two enormous Leyden jars charged by means of wires stretched for
miles among the forest trees near Taunton: "Mr. Crosse, don't you
think it is rather impious to bottle the lightning?"

"Let me answer your question by asking another," said Crosse,
laughing. "Don't you think it might be considered rather impious to
bottle the rain-water?"

Further, it may be remembered that curious reference to this part of
our subject is made by "the gentleman in the small clothes" who lived
next door to Mrs. Nickleby, and presumed to descend the chimney of her
house. "Very good," he is reported to have said on that occasion,
"then bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a

The early days of George Frederick Cooke were passed at
Berwick-upon-Tweed. Left an orphan at a very tender age, he had been
cared for and reared by two aunts, his mother's sisters, who provided
him with such education as he ever obtained. There were no play-books
in the library of these ladies, yet somehow the youth contrived to
become acquainted with the British drama. Strolling companies
occasionally visited the town, and a certain passion for the theatre
possessed the boys of Berwick, with Cooke, of course, among them. They
formed themselves into an amateur company, and represented, after a
fashion, various plays, rather for their own entertainment, however,
than the edification of their friends. And they patronised, so far as
they could, every dramatic troupe that appeared in the neighbourhood
of Berwick. But they had more goodwill than money to bestow upon the
strollers, and were often driven to strange subterfuges in their
anxiety to see the play, and in their inability to pay the price of
admission to the theatre. On one occasion Cooke and two or three
friends secreted themselves beneath the stage, in the hope of stealing
out during the performance and joining the audience by means of an
opening in a dark passage leading to the pit. Discovery and
ignominious ejection followed upon this experiment. Another essay led
to a curious adventure. Always on the alert to elude the vigilance of
the doorkeeper, the boys again effected an entrance into the theatre.
The next consideration was how to bestow themselves in a place of
concealment until the time for raising the curtain should arrive, when
they might hope, in the confusion and bustle behind the scenes, to
escape notice, and enjoy the marvels of the show. "Cooke," records his
biographer, "espied a barrel, and congratulating himself on this safe
and snug retreat, he crept in, like the hero of that immortal modern
drama, 'Tekeli.'" Unfortunately this hiding-place was one of
considerable peril. Cooke perceived that for companion tenants of his
barrel he had two large cannon-balls--twenty-four pounders; but being
as yet but incompletely initiated into the mysteries of the scene, he
did not suspect the theatrical use to which these implements of war
were constantly applied. He was in the thunder-barrel of the theatre!
The play was "Macbeth," and the thunder was required in the first
scene, to give due effect to the entrance of the witches. "The Jupiter
Tonans of the theatre, _alias_ the property-man, approached and seized
the barrel. Judge the breathless fear of my hero--it was too great for
words, and he only shrunk closer to the bottom of his hiding-place.
His tormentor proceeded to cover the open end of the barrel with a
piece of old carpet, and to tie it carefully, to prevent the thunder
from being spilt. Still George Frederick was most heroically silent;
the machine was lifted by the Herculean property-man, and carried
carefully to the side scene, lest in rolling the thunder should rumble
before its cue. It would be a hopeless task to paint the agitation of
the contents of the barrel. The property-man, swearing the barrel was
unusually heavy, placed the complicated machine in readiness, the
witches entered amid flames of rosin; the thunder-bell rang, the
barrel renewed its impetus, and away rolled George Frederick and his
ponderous companions. Silence would now have been no virtue, and he
roared most manfully, to the surprise of the thunderer, who,
neglecting to stop the rolling machine, it entered on the stage, and
George Frederick, bursting off the carpet head of the barrel, appeared
before the audience just as the witches had agreed to meet when 'the
hurly-burly's done.'" Cooke's biographer, Mr. William Dunlap, thought
that this story bore "sufficient marks of probability." It must be
said, however, that as to anecdotes touching their heroes, biographers
are greatly prone to be credulous.

The illusions of the stage were much enhanced by Garrick's Alsatian
scene-painter, Philip James de Loutherbourg, a man of genius in his
way, and an eminent innovator and reformer in the matter of theatrical
decoration. Before his time the scenes had been merely strained
"flats" of canvas, extending the whole breadth and height of the
stage. He was the first to introduce set scenes and what are
technically called "raking pieces." He invented transparent scenes,
with representations of moonlight, rising and setting suns, fires,
volcanoes, &c., and contrived effects of colour by means of silk
screens of various hues placed before the foot and side lights. He was
the first to represent a mist by suspending a gauze between the scene
and the spectator. For two seasons he held a dioramic exhibition of
his own, called the Eidophusikon, at the Patagonian Theatre in Exeter
Change, and afterwards at a house in Panton Square. The special
attraction of the entertainment was a storm at sea, with the wreck of
the "Halsewell," East Indiaman. No pains were spared to picture the
tempest and its most striking effects. The clouds were movable,
painted upon a canvas of vast size, and rising diagonally by means of
a winding machine. The artist excelled in his treatment of clouds, and
by regulating the action of his windlass he could direct their
movements, now permitting them to rise slowly from the horizon and
sail obliquely across the heavens and now driving them swiftly along
according to their supposed density and the power ascribed to the
wind. The lightning quivered through transparent places in the sky.
The waves carved in soft wood from models made in clay, coloured with
great skill, and highly varnished to reflect the lightning, rose and
fell with irregular action, flinging the foam now here, now there,
diminishing in size, and dimming in colour, as they receded from the
spectator. "De Loutherbourg's genius," we are informed, "was as
prolific in imitations of nature to astonish the ear as to charm the
sight. He introduced a new art--the picturesque of sound." That is to
say, he imitated the noise of thunder by shaking one of the lower
corners of a large thin sheet of copper suspended by a chain; the
distant firing of signals of distress from the doomed vessel he
counterfeited by suddenly striking a large tambourine with a sponge
affixed to a whalebone spring, the reverberations of the sponge
producing a peculiar echo as from cloud to cloud dying away in the
distance. The rushing washing sound of the waves was simulated by
turning round and round an octagonal pasteboard box, fitted with
shelves, and containing small shells, peas, and shot; while two discs
of tightly-strained silk, suddenly pressed together, produced a hollow
whistling sound in imitation of loud and fitful gusts of wind.
Cylinders, loosely charged with seed and small shot, lifted now at one
end, now at the other, so us to allow the contents to fall in a
pattering stream, effectually reproduced the noise of hail and rain.
The moon was formed by a circular aperture cut in a tin box containing
a powerful argand lamp, which was placed at the back of the scene, and
brought near or removed from the canvas as the luminary was supposed
to be shining brightly or to be obscured by clouds. These contrivances
of Mr. de Loutherbourg may now, perhaps, be deemed to be of rather a
commonplace description--they have figured so frequently, and in such
amplified and amended forms, upon the modern stage; but they were
calculated to impress the painter's patrons very considerably; they
were then distinctly innovations due to his curiously inventive
genius, and the result of much labour and heedful ingenuity. If the
theatrical entertainments of the present time manifest little progress
in histrionic art, there has been, at any rate, marked advance in the
matter of scenic illusions and mechanical effects. The thunder of our
modern stage storms may no more proceed from mustard-bowls, or from
"troughs of wood with stops in them," but it is, at any rate,
sufficiently formidable and uproarious, sometimes exciting, indeed,
the anxiety of the audience, lest it should crash through the roof of
the theatre, and visit them bodily in the pit; while for our magnesium
or lime-light flashes of lightning, they are beyond anything that
"spirit of right Nantz brandy" could effect in the way of lambent
flames, have a vividness that equals reality, and, moreover, leave
behind them a pungent and sulphurous odour that may be described as
even supernaturally noxious. The stage storm still bursts upon the
drama from time to time; the theatre is still visited in due course by
its rainy and tempestuous season; and thunder and lightning are, as
much as in Addison's time, among the favourite devices of our
playwrights, "put in practice to fill the minds of an audience with
terror." The terror may not be quite of the old kind, but still it
does well enough.



The "doubling" of parts, or the allotment to an actor of more
characters than one in the same representation, was an early necessity
of theatrical management. The old dramatists delighted in a long
catalogue of _dramatis personæ_. There are some fifty "speaking parts"
in Shakespeare's "Henry V.," for instance; and although it was usual
to press even the money-takers into the service of the stage to figure
as supernumerary players, there was still a necessity for the regular
members of the troupe to undertake dual duties. Certain curious stage
directions cited by Mr. Payne Collier from the old extemporal play of
"Tamar Cam," mentioned in Henslowe's "Diary" under the date of
October, 1602, afford evidence of an early system of doubling. In the
concluding scene of the play four-and-twenty persons are required to
represent the nations conquered by the hero--Tartars, Bactrians,
Cattaians, Pigmies, Cannibals, &c., and to cross the stage in
procession in the presence of the leading characters. The names of
these performers are supplied, and it is apparent that Messrs. George,
Thomas Morbeck, Parsons, W. Parr, and other members of the company,
were present early in the scene as nobles and soldiers in attendance
upon the conqueror, and later--sufficient time being allowed for them
to change their costumes--as representatives of "the people of Bohare,
a Cattaian, two Bactrians," &c.

In proportion as the actors were few, and the _dramatis personæ_
numerous, so the system of doubling, and even trebling parts, more
and more prevailed. Especially were the members of itinerant companies
compelled to undertake increase of labour of this kind. It was to
their advantage that the troupe should be limited in number, so that
the money accruing from their performances should not be divided into
too many shares, and, as a consequence, each man's profit reduced too
considerably. Further, it was always the strollers' principle of
action to stick at nothing: to be deterred by no difficulties in
regard to paucity of numbers, deficient histrionic gifts, inadequate
wardrobes, or absent scenery. They were always prepared to represent,
somehow, any play that seemed to them to promise advantages to their
treasury. The labours of doubling fell chiefly on the minor players,
for the leading tragedian was too frequently present on the scene as
the hero of the night to be able to undertake other duties. But if the
player of Hamlet, for instance, was confined to that character, it was
still competent for the representative of "the ghost of buried
Denmark" to figure also as Laertes; or for Polonius, his death
accomplished, to reappear in the guise of Osric or the First
Gravedigger; to say nothing of such minor arrangements as were
involved in entrusting the parts of the First Actor, Marcellus, and
the Second Gravedigger to one actor. Some care had to be exercised
that the doubled characters did not clash, and were not required to be
simultaneously present upon the scene. But, indeed, the strollers did
not hesitate to mangle their author when his stage directions did not
accord with their convenience. The late Mr. Meadows used to relate
that when in early life he was a member of the Tamworth,
Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwick company, he was cast for Orozembo,
the Old Blind Man, and the Sentinel in "Pizarro," and took part in a
mutilated version of Macbeth, in which King Duncan, Hecate, the First
Murderer, and the Doctor were performed by one actor; the bleeding
soldier, one of the apparitions, and Seyton by another; and Fleance,
the Apparition of a crowned head, and the Gentlewoman by the juvenile
lady of the company, the characters of Donaldbain and Siward being
wholly omitted.

Harley's first theatrical engagement was with Jerrold, the manager of
a company at Cranbrook. His salary was fifteen shillings a week, and
in a representation of "The Honeymoon" he appeared as Jaques, Lampedo,
and Lopez, accomplishing the task with the assistance of several wigs
and cloaks. In "John Bull" he played Dan, John Burr, and Sir Francis
Rochdale; another actor doubling the parts of Peregrine and Tom
Shuffleton, while the manager's wife represented Mrs. Brulgruddery and
Frank Rochdale, attiring the latter in a pair of very loose nankeen
trousers and a very tight short jacket. The entire company consisted
of "four white males, three females, and a negro." Certain of the
parts were assigned in the playbills to a Mr. Jones. These, much to
his surprise, Harley was requested by the manager to assume. "Between
you and me," he whispered mysteriously to his young recruit, "there's
no such person as Mr. Jones. Our company's rather thin just now, but
there's no reason why the fact should be noised abroad." Other
provincial managers were much less anxious to conceal the paucity of
their company. A country playbill, bearing date 1807, seems indeed to
vaunt the system of doubling to which the _impresario_ had been
driven. The comedy of "The Busy Body" was announced for performance
with the following extraordinary cast:

    Sir Francis Gripe and Charles       Mr. Johnston.
    Sir George Airy and Whisper         Mr. Deans.
    Sir Jealous Traffic and Marplot     Mr. Jones.
    Miranda and Scentwell               Mrs. Deans.
    Patch and Isabinda                  Mrs. Jones.

Among other feats of doubling or trebling may be counted the
performance, on the same night, by a Mrs. Stanley, at the Coburg
Theatre, of the parts of Lady Anne, Tressell, and Richmond, in
"Richard III." A Mr. W. Rede once accomplished the difficult feat of
appearing as Sir Lucius O'Trigger, Fag, and Mrs. Malaprop in a
representation of "The Rivals," the lady's entrance in the last scene
having been preceded by the abrupt exit of Sir Lucius and the omission
of the concluding passages of his part. The characters of King Henry,
Buckingham, and Richmond, in Cibber's edition of "Richard III.," have
frequently been undertaken by one performer.

Actors have often appeared in two, and sometimes in three theatres on
the same evening. This may be the result of their own great
popularity, or due to the fact of their serving a manager who has
become lessee of more than one establishment. For twenty-eight nights
in succession, Grimaldi performed the arduous duties of clown both at
Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden Theatres. On one occasion he even
played clown at the Surrey Theatre in addition. It is recorded that
"the only refreshment he took during the whole evening was one glass
of warm ale and a biscuit." A postchaise and four was waiting at the
Surrey Theatre to convey him to Sadler's Wells, and thence to Covent
Garden, and the postboys urged their horses to a furious speed. It is
well known that while fulfilling his double engagement he one wet
night missed his coach, and ran in the rain all the way from
Clerkenwell to Holborn, in his clown's dress, before he could obtain a
second vehicle. He was recognised as he ran by a man who shouted:
"Here's Joe Grimaldi!" And forthwith the most thoroughly popular
performer of his day was followed by a roaring and cheering mob of
admirers, who proclaimed his name and calling, threw up their hats and
caps, exhibited every evidence of delight, and agreed, as with one
accord, to see him safe and sound to his journey's end. "So the coach
went on, surrounded by the dirtiest bodyguard that was ever beheld;
not one of whom deserted his post until Grimaldi had been safely
deposited at the stage-door of Covent Garden, when, after raising a
vociferous cheer, such of them as had money rushed round to the
gallery doors, and making their appearance in the front just as he
came on the stage, set up a boisterous shout of 'Here he is again!'
and cheered him enthusiastically, to the infinite amusement of every
person in the theatre who had got wind of the story."

At one time Elliston, engaged as an actor at Drury Lane, had the
additional responsibility of two theatrical managements, the Surrey
and the Olympic. His performers were required to serve both theatres,
and thus frequently appeared upon the stage in two counties upon the
same night. In 1834 the two patent theatres were ruled by one lessee,
whose managerial scheme it was to work the two houses with a company
and a half. The running to and from Drury Lane and Covent Garden of
actors half attired, with rouged faces, and loaded with the
paraphernalia of their art, of dancers in various stages of dress, of
musicians bearing their instruments and their music-books, was
incessant, while the interchange of mysterious terms and inquiries,
such as "Who's on?" "Stage waits," "Curtain down," "Rung up," "First
music," &c., was sufficiently perplexing to passers-by. At the season
of Christmas, when the system of double duty was at its height, the
hardships endured by the performers were severe indeed. The dancers
were said to pass from one theatre to the other six times during the
evening, and to undergo no fewer than eight changes of costume.

In the same way the performances at the summer theatre, the Haymarket,
at the commencement and close of its season, often came into collision
with the entertainments of the winter houses, and the actor engaged by
two masters, and anxious to serve both faithfully, had a very arduous
time of it. How could he possibly be present at the Haymarket and yet
not absent from Drury Lane or Covent Garden? As a rule the patent
theatres had the preference, and the summer theatre was compelled for
a few nights to be content with a very scanty company. On one
occasion, however, Farley, the actor, achieved the feat of appearing
both at the Haymarket and Covent Garden on the same night, and in the
plays presented first at each house. The effort is deserving of
particular description.

At Covent Garden the curtain rose at half-past six o'clock. In the
Haymarket the representation commenced at seven. At the former theatre
Farley was cast for one of the witches in "Macbeth." At the latter he
was required to impersonate Sir Philip Modelove, in the comedy of "A
Bold Stroke for a Wife." It was a question of fitting in his exits at
Covent Garden with his entrances at the Haymarket. A hackney-coach was
in attendance, provided with a dresser, lighted candles, the necessary
change of costume, and the means of altering his make-up. His early
duties as a witch at Covent Garden fulfilled, the actor jumped into
his coach, and, with the assistance of his dresser, was promptly
changed from the weird sister of the tragedy to the elderly beau of
the comedy. He duly arrived at the Haymarket in time to present
himself as Sir Philip, whose first entrance upon the stage is in the
second act of the play. This part of his task performed, he hurried
again to Covent Garden, being transformed on the road from Sir Philip
back again to the weird sister. Again he left the patent theatre, and
reached the Haymarket in time to appear as Sir Philip, on the second
entrance of that character in the fifth act of the play. The actor
acquitted himself entirely to the satisfaction of his two audiences
(who were perhaps hardly aware of the extent of his labours), but
with very considerable strain upon his nervous system. For to add to
the difficulties of his task, his coachman, indifferent to the counsel
that the more haste often signifies the worse speed, turning a corner
too sharply, ran his forewheel against a post, and upset coach, actor,
dresser, candles, costumes, and all. This untimely accident
notwithstanding, the actor, with assistance freely rendered by a
friendly crowd, secured another vehicle, and succeeded in
accomplishing an exploit that can scarcely be paralleled in histrionic

But if doubling was sometimes a matter of necessity, it has often been
the result of choice. Actors have been much inclined to undertake dual
duty with a view of manifesting their versatility, or of surprising
their admirers. Benefit-nights have been especially the occasions of
doubling of this kind. Thus, at a provincial theatre, then under his
management, Elliston once tried the strange experiment of sustaining
the characters of both Richard and Richmond in the same drama. The
entrance of Richmond does not occur until the fifth act of the
tragedy, when the scenes in which the king and the earl occupy the
stage become alternate. On making his exit as Richard, Elliston
dropped his hump from his shoulder, as though it had been a knapsack,
straightened his deformed limbs, slipped on certain pieces of
pasteboard armour, and, adorned with fresh head-gear, duly presented
himself as the Tudor prince. The heroic lines of Richmond delivered,
the actor hurried to the side-wings, to resume something of the
misshapen aspect of Richard, and then re-enter as that character. In
this way the play went on until the last scene, when the combatants
came face to face. How was their fight to be presented to the
spectators? This omission of so popular an incident as a broadsword
combat could not be thought of. The armour of Richmond was forthwith
shifted on to the shoulders of a supernumerary player, who was simply
enjoined to "hold his tongue, and fight like the devil." Richard
slain, Richmond departed. The body of the dead king was borne from the
stage, and Elliston was then enabled to reappear as Richmond, and
speak the closing lines of the play.

Among more legitimate exploits in the way of doubling are to be
accounted the late Mr. Charles Mathews's assumption of the two
characters of Puff and Sir Fretful Plagiary in "The Critic;" Miss Kate
Terry's performance both of Viola and Sebastian in "Twelfth Night;"
Mr. Phelps's appearance as James the First and Trapbois, in the play
founded upon "The Fortunes of Nigel;" and the rendering by the same
actor of the parts of the King and Justice Shallow in "The Second Part
of Henry IV." The worst that can be said for these performances is
that they incline the audience to pay less heed to the play than to
the frequent changes of appearance entailed upon the players. The
business of the scene is apt to be overlooked, and regard wanders
involuntarily to the transactions of the tiring-room and the
side-wings. Will the actor be recognisable? will he really have time
to alter his costume? the spectators mechanically ask themselves, and
meditation is occupied with such possibilities as a tangled string or
an obstinate button hindering the performer. All this is opposed to
the real purpose of playing, and injurious to the actor's art, to say
nothing of the interests of the dramatist. Illusion is the special
object of the theatre, and this forfeits its magic when once inquiry
is directed too curiously to its method of contrivance. Still doubling
of this kind has always been in favour both with actors and audiences,
and many plays have been provided especially to give dual occupation
to the performers. Certain of these have for excuse the fact that
their fables hinge upon some question of mistaken identity, or strong
personal resemblance. The famous "Courier of Lyons," founded, indeed,
upon a genuine _cause célèbre_, was a drama of this kind. Here it was
indispensable that the respectable Monsieur Lesurques and the criminal
Dubosc, between whom so extraordinary a likeness existed that the one
suffered death upon the scaffold for a murder committed by the other,
should be both impersonated by the same performer. "The Corsican
Brothers," it need hardly be said, narrated the fortunes of the
twin-born Louis and Fabian dei Franchi, reasonably supposed to be so
much alike that they could not be known apart. Mademoiselle Rachel
appeared with success in a drama called "Valeria," written by
Messieurs Auguste Maquet and Jules Lacroix, for the express purpose,
it would seem, of rehabilitating the Empress Messalina. The actress
personated Valeria, otherwise Messalina, and also Cynisca, a
dancing-girl of evil character, but so closely resembling the empress
that, as the dramatists argued, history had confounded the two ladies,
and charged the one with the misdeeds of the other. "Like and Unlike,"
an adaptation from the French, in which, some years since, Madame
Celeste was wont to perform at the Adelphi, is also a drama of the
same class. But, indeed, works contrived for doubling purposes are
numerous enough. And in this category may be included the elaborate
melodramas which deal with long lapses of years, and relate the
adventures of more than one generation, and in which the hero or
heroine of the earlier scenes reappears at a later stage of the
performance as his or her own child. Here, however, frequent change of
dress is not required; the character first personated, when once laid
aside, is not resumed, but is supposed to have been effectually
removed from the scene by death, generally of a violent description.
It is to be added that the applause often won by the actor who doubles
a part on account of his rapid changes of attire, are in truth due
much less to him than to the activity of his dresser--a functionary,
however, who is never seen by the public. Still, calls before the
curtain have now become such common compliments, that even the
dressers of the theatre may yet obtain this form of recognition of
their deserts.

The services of a mute double to assist the illusion of the scene, or
to spare a leading performer needless fatigue, have often been
required upon the stage. Such a play as "The Corsican Brothers" could
scarcely be presented without the aid of a mute player to take the
place, now of Louis, now of Fabian dei Franchi, to personate now the
spectre of this twin, now of that. In former days, when the deepest
tragedy was the most highly esteemed of theatrical entertainments,
funeral processions, or biers bearing the corpses of departed heroes,
were among the most usual of scenic exhibitions. Plays closed with a
surprising list of killed and wounded. But four of the characters in
Rowe's "Fair Penitent" are left alive at the fall of the curtain, and
among those survivors are included such subordinate persons as
Rossano, the friend of Lothario, and Lucilla, the confidante of
Calista, whom certainly it was worth no one's while to put to death.
The haughty gallant, gay Lothario, is slain at the close of the fourth
act, but his corpse figures prominently in the concluding scenes. The
stage direction runs at the opening of the fifth act: "A room hung
with black; on one side Lothario's body on a bier; on the other a
table with a skull and other bones, a book and a lamp on it. Calista
is discovered on a couch, in black; her hair hanging loose and
disordered. Soft music plays." In this, as in similar cases, it was
clearly unnecessary that the personator of the live Lothario of the
first four acts should remain upon the stage to represent his dead
body in the fifth. It was usual, therefore, to allow the actor's
dresser to perform this doleful duty, and the dressers of the time
seem to have claimed occupation of this nature as a kind of privilege,
probably obtaining in such wise some title to increase of salary. The
original Lothario--the tragedy being first represented in 1703--was
George Powell, an esteemed actor who won applause from Addison and
Steele, but who appears to have been somewhat of a toper, and was
generally reputed to obscure his faculties by incessant indulgence in
Nantes brandy. The fourth act of the play over, the actor was
impatient to be gone, and was heard behind the scenes angrily
demanding the assistance of Warren, his dresser, entirely forgetful of
the fact that his attendant was employed upon the stage in personating
the corpse of Lothario. Mr. Powell's wrath grew more and more intense.
He threatened the absent Warren with the severest of punishments. The
unhappy dresser, reclining on Lothario's bier, could not but overhear
his raging master, yet for some time his fears were surmounted by his
sense of dramatic propriety. He lay and shivered, longing for the fall
of the curtain. At length his situation became quite unendurable.
Powell was threatening to break every bone in his skin. In his
dresser's opinion the actor was a man likely to keep his word. With a
cry of "Here I am, master!" Warren sprang up, clothed in sable
draperies which were fastened to the handles of his bier. The house
roared with surprise and laughter. Encumbered by his charnel-house
trappings, the dead Lothario precipitately fled from the stage. The
play, of course, ended abruptly. For once the sombre tragedy of "The
Fair Penitent" was permitted a mirthful conclusion.

Whenever unusual physical exertion is required of a player, a perilous
fall, or a desperate leap, a trained gymnast is usually engaged as
double to accomplish this portion of the performance. When in the
stage versions of "Kenilworth," Sir Richard Varney, in lieu of Amy
Robsart, is seen to descend through the treacherous trap and incur a
fall of many feet, we may be sure that it is not the genuine Varney,
but his double who undergoes this severe fate. The name of the double
is not recorded in the playbill, however, and he wins little fame,
let him acquit himself as skilfully as he may. Occasionally, however,
doubles of this kind are found to emerge from obscurity and establish
a reputation of their own. In 1820, a pantomime, dealing with the
fairly tale of "Jack and the Beanstalk," was produced at Drury Lane.
The part of the hero was allotted to little Miss Povey, who declined,
however, to undertake Jack's feat of climbing the famous beanstalk, a
formidable structure reaching from the stage to the roof of the
theatre. It became necessary to secure a substitute who should present
some resemblance to the small and slight figure of the young actress,
and yet be sufficiently strong and courageous to undertake the task
she demurred to. The matter was one of some difficulty, and for some
time no competent double was forthcoming. One morning, however,
Winston, the stage-manager, descried a little active boy, acting as
waterman's assistant, at the hackney-coach stand in Bedford Street,
Covent Garden. He was carried to the theatre and his abilities put to
the test at a rehearsal of the pantomime. His performance was
pronounced satisfactory. He nightly appeared during the run of "Jack
and the Beanstalk" as the climbing double of Miss Povey. Subsequently,
he became one of the pupils of the clown. The boy said he believed his
name was Sullivan. Years afterwards he was known to fame as Monsieur
Silvain, ballet-master, and principal dancer of the Academic Royale,
Paris, an artist of distinction, and a most respectable member of

Mrs. Mowatt, the American actress, has recorded in her Memoirs a
curious instance of a double being employed in connection with a dummy
to secure a theatrical illusion of a special kind. The play produced
at the Olympic Theatre some twenty years ago, was an English version
of the "Ariâne" of Thomas Corneille. In the original, Ariadne, upon
the discovery of the perfidy of Theseus, falls upon a sword and
expires. This catastrophe was altered in the adaptation, and a
startling effect produced by the leaping of the heroine from a rock,
and her plunging into the sea, while the ship of Theseus is seen
departing in the distance. It was found necessary that three Ariadnes,
similarly costumed, and identical in appearance, should lend their aid
to accomplish this thrilling termination. Mrs. Mowatt, as Ariadne the
first, paced the shore, and received the agonising intelligence of
the desertion of Theseus. A ballet-girl, as Ariadne the second,
climbed the rocks of the Island of Naxos, reaching the highest peak to
catch the last glimpse of the vanishing vessel. The third Ariadne was
a most lifelike lay figure, which, on a given signal, was hurled from
the cliff, and seen to fall into the abyss below.

The greatest difficulty seems to have been experienced at rehearsal in
persuading Ariadne the second even to walk up the steep rocks of
Naxos. The poor ballet-girl had been chosen for this duty less because
of her courage than on account of an accidental resemblance she bore
to Mrs. Mowatt. "She stopped and shrieked halfway, protested she was
dizzy, and might fall, and would not advance a step farther. After
about half-an-hour's delay, during which the poor girl was encouraged,
coaxed, and scolded abundantly, she allowed the carpenter, who had
planned the rocky pathway, to lead her carefully up and down the
declivity, and finally rushed up alone." At a certain cue she was
required to fall upon her face, concealed from the audience by an
intercepting rock, and then the lay figure took its flight through the

The success of the performance appears to have been complete. The
substitution of the double for Ariadne, and the dummy for the double,
even puzzled spectators who were provided with powerful opera-glasses.
"The illusion was so perfect," Mrs. Mowatt writes, "that on the first
night of the representation, when Ariadne leaped from the rock, a man
started up in the pit, exclaiming in a tone of genuine horror: 'Good
God! she is killed!'" How this exclamation must have rejoiced the
heart of the stage-manager! For one would rather not consider the
possibility of the "man in the pit" having been placed there by that
functionary with due instructions as to when and what he was to

It is a sort of doubling when, in consequence of the illness or
absence of a performer, his part is read by some other member of the
company. In this way curious experiments have sometimes been made upon
public patience. At Dublin, in 1743, Addison's tragedy was announced
for representation, with Sheridan, the actor, in the character of
Cato. Sheridan, however, suddenly declined to appear, the costume he
had usually assumed in his performance of Cato being absent from the
wardrobe. In this emergency, Theophilus Cibber submitted a proposition
to the audience that, in addition to appearing as Syphax in the play,
he should read the part Mr. Sheridan ought to have filled. The offer
was accepted, the performance ensued, and apparently excited no
opposition. Sheridan was much incensed, however, and published an
address to the public. Cibber replied. Sheridan issued a second
address, to which Cibber again responded. Their correspondence was
subsequently reprinted in a pamphlet entitled "Sock and Buskin." But
the fact remained that "Cato" had been represented with the chief part
not acted, but read by a player who had other duties to fulfil in the
tragedy. One is reminded of the old-established story of the play of
"Hamlet" being performed with the omission of the character of the
Prince of Denmark; a tradition, or a jest, which has long been
attributed to Joe Miller, or some similar compiler of facetiæ. It
would seem, however, that even this absurd legend can boast some
foundation of fact. At any rate, Mr. Parke, the respectable oboist of
the Opera House, who published his Musical Memoirs in 1830, is found
gravely recording of one Cubit, a subordinate actor and singer of
Covent Garden Theatre, that once, "when during one of his summer
engagements at a provincial theatre, he was announced to perform the
character of Hamlet, he was seized with a sudden and serious illness
in his dressing-room, just before the play was going to begin;
whereupon the manager, having 'no more cats than would catch mice,'
was constrained to request the audience to suffer them to go through
with the play, omitting the character of Hamlet; which, being complied
with, it was afterwards considered by the bulk of the audience to be a
great improvement." Mr. Parke proceeds to record, by way, perhaps, of
fortifying his story: "Although this may appear ridiculous and
improbable, an occurrence of a similar kind took place several years
afterwards at Covent Garden Theatre, when Cooke, the popular actor,
having got drunk, the favourite afterpiece of 'Love à la Mode' was
performed before a London audience (he being absent) without the
principal character, Sir Archy MacSarcasm."



Philip Henslowe, who, late in the sixteenth century, was proprietor of
the old Rose Theatre, which stood a little west of the foot of London
Bridge, at Bankside, combined with his managerial duties the
occupation of pawnbroker, and was employed, moreover, as a kind of
commission agent, or middleman, between dramatic authors and actors.
It probably seemed as natural to the manager to engage in these
different employments as to require his players to "double" or
"treble" parts in plays possessed of an unusually long list of
_dramatis personæ_. He had married Agnes Woodward, a widow, whose
daughter, Joan, became the first wife of Edward Alleyn, the actor, the
founder of Dulwich College. Henslowe had been the servant of Mrs.
Woodward, and by his union with her he acquired considerable property.
Forthwith he constituted himself "a banker of the poor"--to use the
modern euphonious synonym for pawnbroker--and advanced money for all
needing it who were able to deposit with him plate, rings, jewels,
wearing apparel, or other chattels of value. The playwrights of the
time constantly obtained loans from him, not always that he might
secure their compositions for his theatre, but often to relieve their
immediate wants; and it is plain that he constantly availed himself of
their necessitous condition to effect bargains with them very
advantageous to his own interests. Robert Daborne, the dramatist, for
instance, appears to have been particularly impecunious, and he was,
moreover, afflicted with a pending lawsuit; the sums he obtained for
his plays from the manager were therefore very disproportionate and
uncertain. His letters to Henslowe are urgent in solicitations for
payment on account of work in hand; he was often obliged to send his
manuscripts piecemeal to the manager, and on one occasion supplied a
rough draft of the last scene of a play in order to obtain a few
shillings in advance. The amounts paid for new plays at this time were
very low. Before 1600 Henslowe never gave more than £8 for a play, but
after that date there was a considerable rise in prices. In 1613
Daborne received £20 for his tragedy of "Machiavell and the Devil." In
the same year, however, for another play, "The Bellman of London," he
was content to take £12 and "the overplus of the second day." He had
demanded £20 in the first instance, but being in great stress for
money, had reduced his terms, beseeching Henslowe "to forsake him not
in his extremity." Daborne's letters of entreaty indeed expose his
poverty in a most pathetic manner, while occasionally they betray
amusingly his vanity as an author. In one of his appeals to the
manager, he writes: "I did think I deserved as much money as Mr.
Massinger;" but this estimation of himself and his writings has not
been confirmed by later ages.

The "overplus of the second day" was probably, as a rule, not very
considerable, seeing that a payment of £20 down was regarded as a
higher rate of remuneration than £12 and "the overplus," whatever it
might produce, in addition. Daborne's needs, however, may have induced
him to prize unduly "the bird in the hand." Still his brother-authors
held similar views on the subject. They, too, disliked the overplus
system, while the managers as resolutely favoured it. So that, apart
from the consideration that poverty clings to certainty because it
cannot afford speculation, and that, to the literary character
especially, a present payment of a specified sum is always more
precious than possible undefined profits in the future, we may
conclude that the overplus system generally told to the advantage of
the managers. In the end the labourers had to yield to the
capitalists; indeed, they could make little stand against them.
Authors have never manifested much faculty for harmonious combination,
and a literary strike was no more conceivable then than now. In time a
chance of the overplus became hardly separable from the method of
paying dramatists. It was thought, perhaps, that better works would
be produced by the writers who were made in some sort dependent for
profit upon the success of their plays and partners in the ventures of
the managers. In such wise the loss sustained from the condemnation of
a play at its first representation would not fall solely upon the
manager; the author would at least be a fellow-sufferer. Gradually the
chance of the overplus was deferred from the second to the third
performance. The system no doubt varied according to the position of
the dramatist, who, if he were a successful writer, could make his own
terms, so far as the selection of the overplus night was concerned.
Sir John Denham, in the prologue to his tragedy, "The Sophy," acted at
Blackfriars about 1642, speaks of the second _or_ third day's overplus
as belonging to the poet:

            Gentlemen, if you dislike the play,
    Pray make no words on't till the second day
    Or third be passed.

After the Restoration it became a settled practice that what was then
called "the author's night" should be the third performance of his
play; and the dramatist in time received further profit from
subsequent representations.

    Then grant 'em generous terms who dare to write,
    Since now that seems as dangerous as to fight;
    If we must yield yet ere the day be fixt,
    Let us hold out the third, and, if we may, the sixth.

    _Prologue, "The Twin Rivals," Farquhar, produced 1702._

"In Dryden's time," writes Dr. Johnson, explaining that with all his
diligence in play-writing the poet could not greatly improve his
fortune,[2] "the drama was very far from that universal approbation
which it has now obtained. The playhouse was abhorred by the Puritans,
and avoided by those who desired the character of seriousness or
decency. A grave lawyer would have debased his dignity, and a young
trader would have impaired his credit by appearing in those mansions
of dissolute licentiousness. The profits of the theatre, when so many
classes of the people were deducted from the audience, were not
great, and the poet had, for a long time, but a single night. The
first that had two nights was Southern; and the first that had three
was Rowe. There were, indeed, in those days, arts of improving a
poet's profit, which Dryden forbore to practise; but a play seldom
produced him more than a hundred pounds by the accumulated gain of the
third night, the dedication, and the copy."

     [2] He had, it was alleged, entered into a contract to furnish
     four plays in each year.

These "arts of improving a poet's profit" consisted in the canvassing
his friends and patrons, distributing tickets, and soliciting favour
in all quarters. By his address in these matters, Southern's tragedy,
"The Spartan Dame," produced him £500; indeed, he is said to have
profited more by his writings for the stage than any of his
contemporaries. Malone states that Addison was the first to abandon
the undignified custom of appealing personally to the public for
support. But it has been pointed out that this is an error. Addison
gave the profits of "Cato" to the managers, and was not required
therefore to appeal on his own behalf to the public. Goldsmith's
"Good-natured Man," it may be noted, was played ten consecutive
nights, and the third, sixth, and ninth performances were advertised
as "appropriated to the author." These three nights produced him £400,
and he received £100 more from Griffin, the publisher, for the
publication of the play--the entire receipts being immediately, with
characteristic promptness, spent in the purchase of the lease of his
chambers in Brick Court, Middle Temple, and in handsome furniture,
consisting of "Wilton carpets, blue moreen mahogany sofas, blue moreen
curtains, chairs corresponding, chimney-glasses, Pembroke and card
tables, and tasteful book-shelves." According to Malone, one hundred
guineas remained for many years, dating from 1726, the standard price
paid by the publishers for a new play.

In addition to these "authors' nights," performances were occasionally
given for the benefit of an author suffering from adverse
circumstances. Thus, in 1733, a performance was organised at the
Haymarket Theatre for the benefit of Mr. Dennis, the critic and
dramatist. "The Provoked Husband" was represented, and Pope so far
laid aside his resentment against his old antagonist as to supply a
prologue for the occasion. Nevertheless, it was noticed that the poet
had not been able to resist the temptation of covertly sneering at the
superannuated author, and certain of the lines in the prologue were
found susceptible of a satirical application. Happily, poor Dennis,
protected by his vanity or the decay of his intelligence, perceived
nothing of this. Indeed, the poor old critic survived the benefit but
twenty days, dying in the seventy-seventh year of his age. Other
benefit performances on behalf of distressed men of letters, or their
families, have frequently been given, even in quite recent times; but
these are not to be confounded with the "authors' nights," as they
were originally understood. "Authors' nights," strictly so called,
have disappeared of late years. Modern dramatists are content to make
private arrangements in regard to their works with the managers, and
do not now publicly advance their personal claims upon the general
consideration. They may profit by an "overplus," or be paid by the
length of a "run" of their plays, or may sell them out-right at once
for a stipulated sum. The public have no knowledge of, and no concern
in, the conditions of their method of transacting business. But from
the old overplus system of the Elizabethan stage resulted those
special performances called "benefits," still known to the modern
playgoer, though now connected in his mind almost altogether with
actors, and in no degree with authors. Nevertheless, it was for
authors that benefits were originally instituted, in opposition, as we
have seen, to their wishes, and solely to suit the convenience and
forward the interests of managers such as Mr. Henslowe.

Certainly in Shakespeare's time the actors knew nothing of benefits.
They obtained the best price they could for their services, and the
risk of profit or loss upon the performance was wholly the affair of
the manager. Indeed, it was long after the time when the chance of an
overplus had become systematised as a means of paying authors, that it
occurred to anyone that actors might also be remunerated in a similar
way. In olden days the actor's profession was not favourably regarded
by the general public; his social position was particularly insecure;
he was looked upon as of close kin to the rogue and the vagabond, and
with degrading possibilities in connection with the stocks and
whipping-post never wholly remote from his professional career. An
Elizabethan player, presuming to submit his personal claims and merits
to the consideration of the audience, with a view to his own
individual profit, apart from the general company of which he was a
member and the manager whom he served, would probably have been deemed
guilty of a most unpardonable impertinence. Gradually, however, the
status of the actor improved; people began to concede that he was not
necessarily or invariably a mountebank, and that certain of the
qualities and dignities of an art might attach now and then to his
achievements. The famous Mrs. Barry was, according to Cibber, "the
first person whose merit was distinguished by the indulgence of having
an annual benefit play, which was granted to her alone," he proceeds,
"if I mistake not, first in King James II.'s time, and which became
not common to others until the division of the company, after the
death of King William's Queen Mary." However, in the preceding reign,
in the year 1681, it appears by an agreement made between Davenant,
Betterton, and others, that Charles Hart and Edward Kynaston were to
be paid "five shillings apiece for every day there shall be any
tragedies or comedies or other representations at the Duke's Theatre,
in Salisbury Court, or wherever the company shall act during the
respective lives of the said Charles Hart and Edward Kynaston,
excepting the days the young men or young women play for their own
profit only." Benefits would certainly seem to be here referred to,
unless we are to understand the performances to be of a commonwealth
kind, carried on by the players at their own risk, and independently
of the managers. Still, to King James's admiring patronage of Mrs.
Barry, the benefit system, as it is at present known to us, has been
generally ascribed; and clearly the monarch's memory deserves to be
cherished on this account by our players. He can ill afford to forego
the smallest claim to esteem, and undoubtedly he entertained a
friendly regard for the stage and its professors. Indeed, the Stuarts
generally were well disposed towards the arts, and a decidedly
playgoing family.

For some years, however, actors' benefits did not extend beyond the
case of Mrs. Barry. But in 1695 the patentees of the theatres were so
unfortunately situated that they could not satisfy the claims of their
actors, and were compelled to pay them "half in good words and half in
ready money." Under these circumstances certain of the players
compounded for the arrears of salary due to them by taking the risk of
benefit performances. After a season or two these benefits were found
to be so advantageous to the actors that they were expressly
stipulated for in their agreements with the managers. On the other
hand, the managers, jealous of the advantages secured in this wise by
the players, took care to charge very fully for the expenses of the
house, which were of course deducted from the gross receipts of the
benefit-night, and further sought to levy a percentage upon the
profits obtained by the actors. In 1702 the ordinary charge for house
expenses, on the occasion of a benefit at Drury Lane, was about £34.
In Garrick's time the charge rose to £64, and was afterwards advanced
considerably. Still the actors had special sources of profit. Their
admirers and patrons were not content to pay merely the ordinary
prices of admission, but bought their tickets at advanced rates, and
often sent presents of money in addition. Thus Betterton--whose
salary, by-the-bye, was only £4 per week--took a benefit in 1709, when
he received £76 for two-thirds of the receipts upon the ordinary
scale--one-third being deducted by the manager for expenses--and a
further sum of £450 for the extra payments and presents of his
friends. The boxes and pit were "laid together," as it was called, and
half-a-guinea was charged for admission. "One lady gave him ten
guineas, some two, and most one guinea. Further, he delivered tickets
for more persons than the boxes, pit, and stage could hold, and it was
thought that he cleared £450 at least over and above the £76."
Certainly the great actor enjoyed on this occasion of his benefit what
is popularly known as "a bumper."[3]

     [3] Macready, on the occasion of his taking a benefit,
     invariably refused to receive any payment in excess of the
     ordinary charges for admission to the theatre, and was wont,
     with a polite note of thanks, to return the balance to those
     who, as he judged, had overpaid him for their tickets.

The system of actors' benefits having thus become thoroughly
established, was soon extended and made applicable to other purposes,
for the most part of a charitable kind. Thus, in 1711, a benefit
performance was given in aid of Mrs. Betterton, the widow of the late
famous tragedian, who had herself been an actress, but had for some
time ceased to appear on the stage owing to age and other infirmities.
The "Tatler," after an account of Betterton's funeral, describes
feelingly the situation of his widow: "The mention I have here made of
Mr. Betterton, for whom I had, as long as I have known anything, a
very great esteem and gratitude, for the pleasure he gave me, can do
him no good; but it may possibly be of service to the unhappy woman he
has left behind him, to have it known that this great tragedian was
never in a scene half so moving as the circumstances of his affairs
created at his departure. His wife, after a cohabitation of forty
years in the strictest amity, has long pined away with a sense of his
decay, as well in his person as in his little fortune; and in
proportion to that she has herself decayed both in health and reason.
Her husband's death, added to her age and infirmities, would certainly
have terminated her life, but that the greatness of her distress has
been her relief by her present deprivation of her senses. This absence
of her reason is her best defence against age, sorrow, poverty, and
sickness."[4] Indeed, Steele constantly testifies his fondness for the
theatre and kindly feeling towards the players, by calling attention
to the benefit performances, and bespeaking the public favour for
them, adding much curious mention and humorous criticism of the
comedians who were especially the objects of his admiration--Pinkethman,
Bullock, Underbill, Dogget, and others.

     [4] The "Tatler," No. 167, May 4, 1710.

Other benefits, however, less urgently laid claim to the goodwill of
the public. At the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in the year 1726,
a performance was announced "for the benefit of an author whose play
is deferred till next season." How far the efforts of this anonymous
gentleman to raise money upon a sort of contingent reversion of
literary distinction were encouraged by the playgoers, or whether his
play ever really saw the light of the stage-lamps, can hardly now be
discovered. By-and-by performances are given on behalf of objects
wholly unconnected with players or playwrights. In 1742 a
representation was advertised, "For the entertainment of the Grand
Master of the Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted
Masons--for the benefit of a brother who has had great misfortunes." A
season or two later there was a benefit at Drury Lane "for a gentleman
under misfortunes," when Othello was played by an anonymous actor,
afterwards to be known to fame as Mr. Samuel Foote. In subsequent
years benefits were given "for the sufferers by a late fire;" on
behalf of the soldiers who had fought against the Pretender in the
year '45; for "Mrs. Elizabeth Forster, the granddaughter of Milton,
and his only surviving descendant,"[5] when "Comus" was performed, and
a new prologue, written by Dr. Johnson, was spoken by Garrick; for
"the Lying-in Hospital in Brownlow Street;" while in the success of
the production of Dr. Young's tragedy of "The Brothers," played at
Drury Lane in 1753, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was
directly concerned--the author having announced that the profits would
be given in aid of that charity. Nevertheless, the receipts
disappointed expectation; whereupon the author generously, out of his
own resources, made up the sum of £1000. A special epilogue was
written for the occasion by Mallet at Garrick's request; but this was
so coarsely worded, and so broadly delivered by Mrs. Clive, that Dr.
Young took offence, and would not suffer the lines to be printed with
his play.

     [5] The lady is said to have been so little acquainted with
     diversion or gaiety, that she did not know what was intended
     when a benefit was offered her. Praiseworthy efforts were made
     in her interest, but the performance only produced £130.

Among the curiosities of benefits may be recorded a performance that
took place at Drury Lane in 1744 on behalf of Dr. Clancy, the author
of one or two plays, who published his memoirs in Dublin in 1750. Dr.
Clancy was blind, and the playbill was headed with the line from
Milton, "The day returns, but not to me returns." The play was
"Oedipus," and the part of Tiresias, the blind prophet, was undertaken
by Dr. Clancy. The advertisements expressed a hope that "as this will
be the first instance of any person labouring under so heavy a
deprivation performing on the stage, the novelty as well as the
unhappiness of his case will engage the favour and protection of a
British audience." The performance, which must certainly have been of
a painful kind, attracted a very numerous audience: and the fact may
be regarded as proof that an appetite for what is now designated "the
sensational" was not wholly unknown to the playgoers of the last
century. It does not appear that Dr. Clancy's representation of the
blind prophet was repeated, nor is it stated that as an histrionic
effort it was particularly distinguished. It was enough perhaps that
the part was played by a man who was really blind, instead of by one
merely simulating blindness. Ultimately Dr. Clancy's case moved the
pity of George II., and he was awarded during his life a pension of
£40 a year from the privy purse.

Other authors have from time to time appeared on the stage to speak
prologues, or to sustain complete characters; for instance, Tom
Durfey, Otway, Farquhar, Savage, Murphy, and, to jump to later days,
Sheridan Knowles. Their appearances, however, cannot be simply
connected with benefits. In many cases they, no doubt, contemplated
the adoption of the stage as a profession, though, as a rule, it must
be said success was denied them in such respect. They played on their
benefit-nights, of course, but their performances were not limited to
those occasions.

It is not to be supposed that a benefit could be taken by an actor,
or, at an earlier date, by an author, without his incurring much
trouble in regard to preliminary arrangements. The mere issue of a
list of entertainments, however attractive, was by no means
sufficient. He was required to call at the houses of his patrons and
friends, personally to solicit their support on the occasion, and to
pay his respects to them. Any failure of attention on his part in this
matter he was bound to make the subject of public explanation and
apology. It must be remembered that the playgoers of a century ago
were rather a family than a people. They were limited in number,
returned to the theatre night after night, naturally demanding that
constant change of programme which so distinguished the old stage, and
has been so completely omitted from modern theatrical arrangements,
and were almost personally known to the actors. This, of course, only
refers to the visitors to the pit and boxes; the galleries were always
presumed to be occupied by footmen and apprentices, and persons of no
consideration whatever, while stalls were not yet in existence.
Strangers from the country were few--those from foreign parts fewer
still. The theatre was regarded, as it were, from a household point of
view; was in some sort supplementary to a man's home, and he therefore
considered himself entitled to be heard and to take a personal
interest in regard to its concerns and proceedings. Necessarily this
feeling diminished as London grew in size and the audience increased
in numbers, and finally became impossible. An actor knew at last his
admirers only in the mass; while they lost inevitably all individual
and private interest in his success. But long after the London
players had ceased to make calls and to solicit patronage for their
benefits, the practice still obtained in the provinces, and could on
no account be abandoned. Thus, in early life, when a member of the
country company of which her father, Roger Kemble, was manager, the
great Mrs. Siddons has been seen, as a contemporary writer describes,
"walking up and down both sides of a street in a provincial town,
dressed in a red woollen cloak, such as was formerly worn by menial
servants, and knocking at each door to deliver the playbill of her
benefit." And to come to a later instance, the reader may bear in mind
that before that ornament of Mr. Crummles's company, Miss Snevellici,
took her benefit or "bespeak" at the Portsmouth Theatre, she, in
company with Nicholas Nickleby, and, for propriety's sake, the Infant
Phenomenon, canvassed her patrons in the town, and sold tickets to Mr.
and Mrs. Curdle, Mrs. Borum, and others.

In pursuance of this principle, we find a notice in the bill for Mr.
Bickerstaff's benefit, at Drury Lane, in May, 1723: "Bickerstaff being
confined to his bed by his lameness, and his wife lying now dead, has
nobody to wait on the quality and his friends for him, but hopes
they'll favour him with their appearance." And when, just before Mr.
Ryan's benefit at Covent Garden in 1735, he had been attacked by a
footpad and seriously injured--several of his teeth having been shot
out, and his face and jawbone much shattered--he addressed a letter in
_The Daily Post_ to his friends, in which he stated the uncertainty of
his being ever able to appear on the stage again, and expressed his
hopes "that they would excuse his not making a personal application to
them." So again, on the occasion of Mr. Chapman's benefit, in 1739,
there appears in the playbill an announcement: "N.B.--I being in
danger of losing one of my eyes, and advised to keep it from the air,
therefore stir not out to attend my business at the theatre. On this
melancholy occasion I hope my friends will be so indulgent as to send
for tickets to my house, the corner of Bow Street, Covent Garden,
which favour will be gratefully acknowledged by their obedient, humble
servant, THOMAS CHAPMAN." The excuses set forth in these announcements
appear to be very sufficient, and no doubt were so regarded by the
patrons in each case, while at the same time they demonstrate the
conduct required ordinarily of persons anxious for public support on
the occasion of their benefits. Excuses of a lighter kind, however,
seem frequently to have been held adequate by the players. Mr.
Sheridan, the actor, notifies in 1745 that, "as his benefit was not
appointed till last Friday, he humbly hopes that such ladies and
gentlemen as he shall omit to wait on will impute it rather to a want
of time than to a want of respect and knowledge of his duty." And Mr.
Yates, who about the same time had migrated from the West-end stage to
the humbler theatre in Goodman's Fields, and announced Fielding's
"Miser" for his benefit--"the part of Lovegold to be attempted by Mr.
Yates after the manner of the late Mr. Griffin"--apologises "for not
waiting on ladies and gentlemen, as he is not acquainted with that
part of the town." Whether this somewhat lofty plea of ignorance of
their neighbourhood, however, affected unfavourably the actor's claims
upon the denizens of Goodman's Fields, cannot now be ascertained. In
time notices of this kind disappeared altogether from the playbills.
At the present day an actor, of course, does his best to conciliate
patronage, and in his own immediate circle of friends some little
canvassing probably takes place to promote the sale of tickets; but
these matters are arranged privately, and the general public is
relieved from the calls of actors and their personal appeals for
support. Indeed, the old system is now in a great degree reversed, and
the actor's place of abode is often stated in his advertisements in
order that the public may call upon him to obtain tickets for his
benefit, if they prefer that course to purchasing them in the usual
way at the box-office of the theatre. In the case of actresses this
plan has often been found efficacious in diminishing the exuberant
ardour of certain youthful supporters of the stage, by enabling them
to discover that the fair performer who had peculiarly stirred their
dramatic sympathies, was hardly seen to such advantage by daylight, in
the seclusion of her private dwelling, as when under the glare of gas,
with distance lending enchantment to rouge and pearl-powder, and
casting an accommodating veil over divers physical deficiencies and
unavoidable deteriorations.

As benefits became common, and they were relegated to the close of the
season, when the general appetite for theatrical entertainments may be
presumed to be tolerably satiated, the actors found it very necessary
to put forward performances of an unusual kind to attract patronage
and stimulate the curiosity of the public. It was understood that on
these occasions criticism was suspended, and great licence was
permissible. A benefit came to be a kind of dramatic carnival. Any and
everything was held to be lawful, and efforts of an experimental kind
were almost demanded--certainly excused under the circumstances. The
player who usually appeared wearing the buskin now assumed the sock,
and the established comedian ventured upon a flight into the regions
of tragedy. Novelty of some sort was indispensable, and the audience,
if they might not wholly approve, were yet expected to forbear
condemning. The comic actors especially availed themselves of their
privileges, and on the strength of their popularity--the comedian
always establishing more intimate and friendly relations between
himself and his audience than are permitted to the tragedian--indulged
in very strange vagaries. Mr. Spiller, on the occasion of his benefit
at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1720, issued an
advertisement: "Whereas I, James Spiller, of Gloucestershire, having
received an invitation from Hildebrand Bullock, of Liquorpond Street,
London, to exercise the usual weapons of the noble science of defence,
will not fail to meet this bold invader, desiring a full stage, blunt
weapons, and from him much favour." At another time the same actor
announced his benefit in a kind of mock electioneering address,
requesting the vote and interest of the public on the ground of his
being "a person well affected to the establishment of the theatre." To
recite an epilogue while seated on the back of an ass was a favourite
expedient of the comedians of the early Georgian period, while the
introduction of comic songs and mimicry--such as the scene of "The
Drunken Man," and the song of "The Four-and-Twenty Stock-Jobbers,"
which Mr. Harper performed on his benefit-night in 1720--was found to
be a very attractive measure. Authors who were on friendly terms with
the actors, or had reason to be grateful to them, frequently gave them
short pieces or wrote special epilogues for their benefits. Sheridan's
farce, "St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant," was a present
to Clinch, the actor, and first produced on his benefit-night in 1775.
Goldsmith felt himself so obliged to Quick and Lee Lewes, who had been
the original Tony Lumpkin and Young Marlow in "She Stoops to
Conquer," that for the one he adapted a farce from Sedley's
translation of "Le Grondeur," and supplied the other with an
occasional epilogue, written in his pleasantest manner. When Shuter
selected "The Good-natured Man" for his benefit, the gratified author,
in a fit of extravagant kindness, sent the actor ten guineas--possibly
the last he had at the time--for a box ticket.

On the occasion of his first benefit in London, Garrick furnished his
patrons with a remarkable proof of his versatility, for he represented
extreme age in "King Lear," and extreme youth in the comedy of "The
Schoolboy." At his second benefit he again contrasted his efforts in
tragedy and comedy by appearing as Hastings in "Jane Shore," and Sharp
in the farce of "The Lying Valet." Kean, for his benefit, danced as
harlequin, gave imitations of contemporary performers, and sang the
song of "Tom Tug" after the manner of Mr. Incledon. Other actors of
very inferior capacity made similar experiments, the fact that the
performance was "for a benefit," and "for one night only," being
esteemed in every case a sufficient justification of any eccentricity.

It would be hopeless to attempt any detailed account of the many
strange deeds done for the sake of benefits. Actresses have encroached
upon the repertory of their male playfellows, as when Mrs. Woffington
appeared as Lothario, Mrs. Abington as Scrub, Mrs. Siddons as Hamlet,
and when portly Mrs. Webb attempted the character of Falstaff. Actors
have laid hands on characters which usually were deemed the exclusive
property of the actresses--as when Mr. Dowton resigned his favourite
part of Sir Anthony Absolute and donned the guise of Mrs. Malaprop.
The Kembles have sought to make their solemn airs and sepulchral tones
available in the reckless scenes and hilarious utterances of
farce--and exuberant comedians of the Keeley and Liston pattern have
ventured to tincture with whimsicality the woes of tragedy. To draw a
crowded house and bring money to the treasury was the only aim.
Benefits, in fact, followed the argument of the old drinking
song--merriment at all costs to-night, and sobriety, somehow, on the
morrow--until the benefit season came round again, and then--_da



Addison devotes a number of "The Spectator" to a description of "The
Trunkmaker in the Upper Gallery"--a certain person so called, who had
been observed to frequent, during some years, that portion of the
theatre, and to express his approval of the transactions of the stage
by loud knocks upon the benches or the wainscot, audible over the
whole house. It was doubtful how he came to be called the Trunkmaker;
whether from his blows, resembling those often given with a hammer in
the shops of such artisans, or from a belief that he was a genuine
trunkmaker, who, upon the conclusion of his day's work, repaired to
unbend and refresh his mind at the theatre, carrying in his hand one
of the implements of his craft. Some, it is alleged, were foolish
enough to imagine him a perturbed spirit haunting the upper gallery,
and noted that he made more noise than ordinary whenever the Ghost in
"Hamlet" appeared upon the scene; some reported that the trunkmaker
was, in truth, dumb, and had chosen this method of expressing his
content with all he saw or heard; while others maintained him to be
"the playhouse thunderer," voluntarily employing himself in the
gallery when not required to discharge the duties of his office upon
the roof of the building. The "Spectator," holding that public shows
and diversions lie well within his province, and that it is
particularly incumbent upon him to notice everything remarkable
touching the elegant entertainments of the theatre, makes it his
business to obtain the best information he can in regard to this
trunkmaker, and finds him to be "a large black man whom nobody knows;"
who "generally leans forward on a huge oaken plant," attending closely
to all that is occurring upon the stage; who is never seen to smile,
but who, upon hearing anything that pleases him, takes up his staff
with both hands, and lays it upon the next piece of timber that stands
in his way, with exceeding vehemence; after which, he composes himself
to his former posture, till such time as something new sets him again
at work. Further, it was observed of him, that his blows were so well
timed as to satisfy the most judicious critics. Upon the expression of
any shining thought of the poet, or the exhibition of any uncommon
grace by the actor, the trunkmaker's blow falls upon bench or
wainscot. If the audience fail to concur with him, he smites a second
time, when, if the audience still remain unroused, he looks round him
with great wrath and administers a third blow, which never fails to
produce the desired effect. Occasionally, however, he is said to
permit the audience to begin the applause of their own motion, and at
the conclusion of the proceeding ratifies their conduct by a single

It was admitted that the trunkmaker had rendered important service to
the theatre, insomuch that, upon his failing to attend at his post by
reason of serious illness, the manager employed a substitute to
officiate in his stead, until such time as his health was restored to
him. The incompetence of the deputy, however, became too manifest;
though he laid about him with incredible violence, he did it in such
wrong places, that the audience soon discovered he was not their old
friend the real trunkmaker. With the players the trunkmaker was
naturally a favourite; they not only connived at his obstreperous
approbation, but cheerfully repaid such damage as his blows
occasioned. That he had saved many a play from condemnation, and
brought fame to many a performer, was agreed upon all hands. The
audience are described as looking abashed if they find themselves
betrayed into plaudits in which their friend in the upper gallery
takes no part; and the actors are said to regard such favours as mere
_brutum fulmen_ or empty noise, when unaccompanied by "the sound of
the oaken plant." Still, the trunkmaker had his enemies, who
insinuated that he could be bribed in the interest of a bad poet or a
vicious player; such surmises, however, the "Spectator" averred to be
wholly without foundation, upholding the justice of his strokes and
the reasonableness of his admonitions. "He does not deal about his
blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. The
inexpressible force wherewith he lays them on sufficiently shows the
strength of his convictions. His zeal for a good author is indeed
outrageous, and breaks down every fence and partition, every board and
plank, that stands within the expression of his applause."

Moreover, the "Spectator" insists upon the value and importance to an
audience of a functionary thus presiding over them like the director
of a concert, in order to awaken their attention and beat time to
their applauses; or, "to raise my simile," Addison continues, "I have
sometimes fancied the trunkmaker in the upper gallery to be, like
Virgil's ruler of the winds, seated upon the top of a mountain, who,
when he struck his sceptre upon the side of it, 'roused a hurricane
and set the whole cavern in an uproar.'"

In conclusion, the writer, not caring to confine himself to barren
speculations or to reports of pure matter of fact, without deriving
therefrom something of advantage to his countrymen, takes the liberty
of proposing that upon the demise of the trunkmaker, or upon his
losing "the spring of his arm" by sickness, old age, infirmity, or the
like, some able-bodied critic should be advanced to his post, with a
competent salary, and a supply, at the public expense, of bamboos for
operas, crab-tree cudgels for comedies, and oaken plants for
tragedies. "And to the end that this place should be always disposed
of according to merit, I would have none preferred to it who has not
given convincing proofs both of a sound judgment and a strong arm, and
who could not upon occasion either knock down an ox, or write a
comment upon Horace's 'Art of Poetry.' In short, I would have him a
due composition of Hercules and Apollo, and so rightly qualified for
this important office that the trunkmaker may not be missed by our

Addison's paper doubtless possessed an element of fact and truth,
enriched by the fancifulness peculiar to the writer. It was his manner
thus to embroider commonplace; to enhance the actual by large
additions of the ideal. There probably existed such a personage as the
trunkmaker; some visitor to the upper gallery was in the habit of
expressing approval by strokes of his cudgel upon the wainscot; and
his frequent presence had obtained the recognition of the other
patrons of the theatre. It was an easy and a pleasant task to Addison
to invest this upper-gallery visitor with special critical qualities
to attribute to his "oaken plant" almost supernatural powers. In any
case, the trunkmaker was a sort of foreshadowing of the _claqueur_. It
was reserved for later times to organise applause and reduce success
to a system. Of old, houses were sometimes "packed" by an author's
friends to ensure a favourable result to the first representation of
his play. When, for instance, Addison's "Cato" was first produced,
Steele, as himself relates, undertook to pack an audience, and
accordingly filled the pit with frequenters of the Whig coffee-houses,
with students from the Inns of Court, and other zealous partisans.
"This," says Pope, "had been tried for the first time in favour of
'The Distressed Mother' (by Ambrose Phillips), and was now, with more
efficacy, practised for 'Cato.'" But this was only an occasional
_claque_. The "band of applauders" dispersed after they had cheered
their friend and achieved their utmost to secure the triumph of his
play. And they were unconnected with the manager of the theatre; they
were not _his_ friends, still less were they his servants, receiving
wages for their labours, and bound to raise their voices and clap
their hands in accordance with his directions. For such are the
genuine _claqueurs_ of to-day.

Dr. Véron, who has left upon record a sort of secret history of his
management of the Paris Opera House, has revealed many curious
particulars concerning _les claqueurs_, adding a serious defence of
the system of artificial applause. The artistic nature, the doctor
maintains, submitting its merits to the judgment of the general
public, has great need of the exhilaration afforded by evidence of
hearty approval and sympathy; the singer and the dancer are thus
inspired with the courage absolutely necessary to the accomplishment
of their professional feats; and it is the doctor's experience that
whenever a song or a dance has been redemanded by the audience, the
dance has been better danced, and the song better sung, the second
time of performance than the first. Hence there is nothing harmful,
but rather something beneficial, in the proceedings of _les
claqueurs_. Every work produced at the theatre cannot be of the first
class, and legitimately rouse the enthusiasm of the public; every
dramatic or lyrical artist cannot invariably, by sheer force of
talent, overcome the coldness, the languor, or the indifference of an
audience; yet the general effect of the representation would suffer
much if all applause, including that of a premeditated and, indeed,
purchased kind, were entirely withheld; the timid would remain timid,
talent would remain unrecognised, and, therefore, almost unrevealed,
if no cheering were heard to reassure, to encourage, to kindle, and
excite. The suggestion that the public would supply genuine applause
if only the _claqueurs_ were less liberal with the spurious article,
Dr. Véron rather evades than discusses.

The chief of the _claqueurs_ in Dr. Véron's time was a certain M.
Auguste, of Herculean form and imposing address, well suited in every
respect for the important post he filled. He was inclined to
costume of very decisive colours--to coats of bright green or
reddish-brown--presumably that, like a general officer, his forces
might perceive his presence in their midst by the peculiarity, if not
the brilliance, of his method of dress. Auguste was without
education--did not know a note of music; but he understood the
audience of the Opera House. For long years he had attended every
representation upon its stage, and experience had made him a most
skilful tactician. Auguste enjoyed the complete confidence of Dr.
Véron. _Claqueur_ and manager attended together the rehearsals of
every new work, and upon the eve of its first performance held a
cabinet council upon the subject. They reviewed the whole production
from the first line to the last. "I did not press upon him my
opinions," says Dr. Véron; "I listened to his; he appraised, he judged
all, both dance and song, according to his own personal impressions."
The manager was surprised at the justice of the _claqueur's_ criticism
by anticipation--at his ingenious plans for apportioning and
graduating the applause. It was Auguste's principle of action to begin
modestly and discreetly, especially at the opera, dealing with a
choice and critical public; to approve a first act but moderately,
reserving all salvoes of applause for the last act and the _dénoûment_
of the performance. Thus, in the last act he would bestow three rounds
of applause upon a song, to which, had it occurred in the first act,
he would have given but one. He held that towards the middle of a
performance success should be quietly fostered, but never forced. For
the _claqueurs_ of other theatres Auguste entertained a sort of
disdain. It was, as he averred, the easiest thing in the world to
obtain success at the Opéra Comique, or the Vaudeville. The thing was
managed there not so much by applause as by laughter. There was the
less need for careful management; the less risk of vexing the public
by injudicious approbation. No one could take offence at a man for
laughing immoderately; he was not chargeable with disingenuousness, as
in the case of one applauding to excess. Occasionally cries were
raised of "_A la porte les claqueurs_;" but such a cry as "_A la porte
les rieurs_," had never been heard. At the Opera House, however, there
was no occupation for laughers; in the score of an opera, or in the
plot of a ballet, appeal was never made to a sense of the mirthful.
Then the opera public was of a susceptible, and even irritable nature;
it might be led, but it could scarcely be driven; it could be
influenced by polite and gentle means; it would resent active
interference, and "a scene" might ensue--even something of a
disturbance. But M. Auguste implored his manager to be easy on that
score. Nothing of the kind should happen; he would prove himself
deserving, worthy of his employer's confidence. "Only," said M.
Auguste, "those fools, the paying public, certainly give us a great
deal of trouble!"

The _chef de la claque_ was, of course, supplied with admission
tickets by the management, and these were issued according to an
established scale. If the success of a work, already represented many
times, showed signs of flagging, and needed to be sustained, Auguste
received some forty or fifty pit tickets; but in the case of a work
highly approved by the public, and still attracting good houses,
twenty, or even ten, tickets were held to be sufficient. But on the
first production of an entirely new entertainment, at least a hundred
tickets were handed to Auguste. There was then a meeting of the
_claqueurs_ at some appointed place--usually a wine-shop in the
neighbourhood of the theatre--and the plan of action was arranged, the
army of applauders organised and marshalled. Intelligent lieutenants,
about ten in number, each in command of a detachment of the forces,
were instructed how to deal with opponents, and to keep watchful eyes
upon the proceedings of their chief. In addition to a money payment
and their own entrance tickets, they were accorded other tickets to be
given only to friends upon whose fidelity they could rely. Certain of
the _claqueurs_ accepted outpost duty, as it were, and acted in
isolated positions; others, and these the majority, took close order,
and fought, so to speak, in column. In addition to his regular forces,
Auguste engaged supernumerary and irregular troops, known to him as
_sous-claqueurs_, upon whose discipline and docility he could not
wholly rely, though he could make them useful by enclosing them in the
ranks of his seasoned soldiers. The _sous-claqueurs_ were usually
well-clothed frequenters and well-wishers of the Opera House, anxious
to attend the first representation of the new work to be produced, and
willing to pay half-price for their tickets, upon the condition that
they placed their applause at the disposal of M. Auguste.

The _claqueurs_ were admitted to the theatre and took their seats some
time before the entrance of the paying public. M. Auguste had thus
ample opportunity of deciding upon his strategic operations, of
placing his advance guard, of securing the position of his main army,
and of defending its flanks and rear. The paying public thus found
itself curiously intermixed and imprisoned by these hosts of
_claqueurs_, and victory usually crowned the efforts of M. Auguste,
who was careful to arrogate to himself the results of the evening's
proceedings. "What a splendid success I have achieved!" he would say;
completely ignoring the efforts of the composer, the artists of the
theatre, and the manager, who were perhaps entitled to some share of
the glories of the performance.

Auguste, as Dr. Véron relates, made his fortune at the opera. He was
in receipt of annuities from several artists of established fame.
Success could hardly be achieved without his aid. The friends,
patrons, and family of a new artist, to ensure his or her success,
invariably paid court and money to Auguste, the price of his services
corresponding with the pretensions of the _débutant_. And then he
undertook engagements of an exceptional kind, sometimes even to the
prejudice of his manager. Artists required of him some times a sudden
increase of their success--that, for a few nights only, an
extraordinary measure of applause should reward their exertions.
Their engagements were expiring or were about to be renewed; it was
desirable to deceive both the public and the manager. The vital
question of salary was under consideration; an increase of their
emoluments was most desirable. So, for a while, the mediocre singer or
dancer obtained from Auguste and his auxiliaries unusual favour, and
the manager was induced to form very erroneous opinions upon the
subject. Rumours, too, were artfully circulated to the effect that the
performer in question had received liberal offers from England or
Prussia; that his or her merits had roused the attention of rival
_impresarios_; the Parisian manager was cautioned at all costs to
retain in his theatre ability and promise so remarkable. But with the
signing of a new engagement, at an advance of salary, came
disenchantment. M. Auguste's services were now withdrawn, for the
performer's object was attained; and the management for some time to
come was saddled with mediocrity, purchased at a high price.

But little difficulties and deceptions of this kind notwithstanding,
Dr. Véron approved the _claque_ system, and constituted himself the
friend and defender of Auguste. It was not only that Auguste was
himself a very worthy person--an excellent father of a family, leading
a steady and creditable kind of life, putting by, for the benefit of
his children, a considerable portion of his large annual earnings as
_chef de la claque_--but the advantages of artificial applause and
simulated success seemed to Dr. Véron to be quite beyond question,
while wholly justifiable by their results. The manager detected the
_claque_ system as a pervading element in almost all conditions of
life. To influence large bodies or assemblies, dexterity and
stratagem, he declared, were indispensably necessary. The applause
exacted by Nero, when he recited his verses or played upon the lute,
or Tiberius, posing himself as an orator before the senate, was the
work of a _claque_, moved thereto rather by terror, however, than by
pecuniary considerations. Parliamentary applause he found also to be
of an artificial kind, produced by the spirit of friendship or the
ties of party; and he relates how, when the _Constitutionnel_
newspaper was under his direction, certain leading members attended at
the printing-office to correct the proofs of their speeches, and never
failed to enliven them at intervals by the addition of such terms as
"Cheers," "Loud cheers," "Great cheering," "Sensation," "Excitement,"
&c. These factitious plaudits, tricks, and manoeuvres of players,
singers, dancers, and orators, in truth, deceive no one, he
maintained; while they make very happy, nevertheless, all those who
have recourse to them.

As a manager, therefore, Dr. Véron invariably opposed the efforts made
to suppress the _claqueurs_ in the pay of the theatre. He admits that
sometimes excess of zeal on the part of these hirelings brought about
public discontent and complaint; but, upon the whole, he judged that
they exercised a beneficial influence, especially in the prevention of
cabals or conspiracies against particular artists, and of certain
scandals attached to the rivalry and jealousy of performers. And to M.
Auguste he thus addressed himself: "You have a fine part to play;
great duties to perform: put an end to quarrels; help the weak against
the strong; never oppose the public; cease applauding on a hint of
their disapproval; present an example of politeness and decorum;
conciliate and pacify; above all, prevent all hostile combinations,
all unjust coalitions, against the artists on the stage, or the works

Dr. Véron has said, perhaps, all that could be said for the _claque_
system; but his plausible arguments and apologies will not carry
conviction to every mind. There can be no doubt of the value, the
necessity almost, of applause to the player; but one would much rather
that the enthusiasm of an audience was wholly genuine, and not
provided at so much a cheer, let us say, by the manager or the player
himself. "Players, after all," writes Hazlitt, "have little reason to
complain of their hard-earned short-lived popularity. One thunder of
applause from pit, boxes, and gallery is equal to a whole immortality
of posthumous fame." But if the thunder is but stage thunder? If the
applause is supplied to order, through the agency of a M. Auguste?
Upon another occasion Hazlitt expresses more tenderness for the
ephemeral glories of the actor's art. "When an author dies it is no
matter, for his work remains. When a great actor dies, there is a void
produced in society, a gap which requires to be filled up. The
literary amateur may find employment for his time in reading old
authors only, and exhaust his entire spleen in scouting new ones; but
the lover of the stage cannot amuse himself in his solitary
fastidiousness by sitting to witness a play got up by the departed
ghosts of first-rate actors, or be contented with the perusal of a
collection of old playbills; he may extol Garrick, but he must go to
see Kean, and, in his own defence, must admire, or at least tolerate,
what he sees, or stay away against his will." And Cibber, in his
apology, has placed on record an elaborate lament, "that the momentary
beauties flowing from an harmonious elocution cannot, like those of
poetry, be their own record; that the animated graces of the actor can
live no longer than the instant breath and motion that presents them;
or, at least, can but faintly glimmer through the memory or imperfect
attestation of a few surviving spectators."

The complete suspension of applause, genuine or factitious, must
result in the exceeding depression of the player. He must feel himself
deprived of his proper sustenance; and something of dismay must
possess him, when he finds that all his efforts move his audience in
no way; that they are not _en rapport_ with him; that while he labours
they are listless. Henderson committed himself to the exaggeration
that no actor could perform well, unless he was systematically
flattered both on and off the stage. Liston, the comedian, found
applause, of whatever kind, so absolutely necessary to him that he
declared he liked to see even a small dog wag his tail in approbation
of his exertions. Mrs. Siddons complained of the inferior measure of
applause that she obtained in the theatres of the provinces. At Drury
Lane her grand bursts of passion were received with prolonged cheering
and excitement, that gave her rest and breathing-time, and prepared
her for increased efforts. The playgoers of York were at one time so
lukewarm in their reception of popular players, that, at the instance
of Woodward, Tate Wilkinson, the manager, called on the chief patrons
of the theatre, and informed them that the actor was so mortified by
their coolness, that he could not play nearly so well in York as in
London, Dublin, and Edinburgh. The York audience benefited by the
remonstrance, and on Woodward's next appearance, greatly to his
delight, awarded him extraordinary applause.

The system of calling, or recalling, a favourite performer, which now
appears to be established in our theatres, is of foreign origin, and
was first instituted in London at the Italian Opera House. "It is the
highest ambition of the opera-singers,--like the Methodists--to have
a _call_" says Parke, the oboe-player, in his "Musical Memoirs,"
published in 1830; and he describes the opera season of 1824, when
Rossini was director and composer to the King's Theatre, and his wife,
Madame Colbran Rossini, appeared as _prima donna seria_; Madame Pasta
and Madame Catalani being also engaged for a limited number of nights.
He relates, as something remarkable, that at the fall of the curtain
after the performance of Mayer's "Il Fanatico per la Musica," Madame
Catalani "was _called for_, when she again presented herself, making
her obeisance, amidst waving of handkerchiefs and tumultuous
applause." Madame Pasta, after appearing as Desdemona, "also had a
call when the curtain fell, and was brought back to receive the reward
due to her distinguished talents." Two seasons later Mr. Parke says,
in reference to Madame Pasta's performance of Desdemona: "At the end
of the opera, by desire of the audience, she came forward once more to
receive that reward which is becoming so common that it will shortly
cease to be a mark of distinction." And, two seasons after that, of
her appearance in "Tancredi," he writes: "She, _as usual_, delighted
the audience; and was, _as usual_, enthusiastically applauded. After
the curtain fell she was called for, _as usual_, to go through the
ceremony of being unmercifully applauded."

In the non-operatic theatres it is probable that calls first came in
vogue when epilogues went out.

The players are called simply to congratulate them on their success,
and to express some sort of gratitude for their exertions. There is
nothing to be urged against this method of applauding the performers
when kept within reasonable bounds. Sometimes it is to be feared,
however, the least discreet of the audience indulge in calls rather
for their own gratification--by way of pastime during the interval
between one play and another--than out of any strict consideration of
the abilities of the players; and, having called on one or two
deserving members of a company, proceed to require the presence before
the curtain of others who have done little to merit the compliment.
Certain playgoers, indeed, appear to applaud no matter what, simply
for the sake of applauding. They regard the theatre as a place to be
noisy in, and for the vehement expression of their own restless
natures. When they cannot greet a player with acclamations, they will
clamorously deride a footman, or other servant of the theatre, who
appears before the foot-lights with a broom, or a watering-pot, a
carpet, or other necessary of representation; or they will issue
boisterous commands to the gentlemen of the orchestra to "strike up"
and afford an interlude of music. To these of the audience it is
almost painful that a theatre should be peaceful or a stage vacant;
rather than this should happen they would prefer, if it could possibly
be contrived, and they were acquainted with his name, that the
call-boy or the prompter should be called for and congratulated upon
the valuable aid he had furnished to the performance.

Macready relates in his Memoirs that the practice of "calling on" the
principal actor was first introduced at Covent Garden Theatre, on the
occasion of his first performance of the character of Richard the
Third, on October 19th, 1819. "In obedience to the impatient and
persevering summons of the house I was desired by Fawcett to go before
the curtain; and accordingly I announced the tragedy for repetition
amidst the gratulating shouts that carried the assurance of complete
success to my agitated and grateful heart." But while loving applause,
as an actor needs must, Macready had little liking for the honours of
calls and recalls--heartily disapproving of them, indeed, when they
seemed to him in any way to disturb the representation. Thus, of his
performance of Werner at Manchester, in 1845, he writes: "Acted very
fairly. Called for. _Trash!_" Under date December 23rd, 1844, he
records: "Acted Virginius [in Paris] with much energy and power to a
very excited audience. I was loudly called for at the end of the
fourth act, but could not or would not make so absurd and empirical a
sacrifice of the dignity of my poor art." Three years later he enters
in his diary: "Acted King Lear with much care and power, and was
received by a most kind, and sympathetic, and enthusiastic audience. I
was called on, the audience trying to make me come on after the first
act, but of course I could not think of such a thing." But these
"calls" relate to the conclusion of an act, when, at any rate, the
drop-scene was fallen, hiding the stage from view, and when, for a
while, there is a pause in the performance, suspension of theatrical
illusion. What would Macready have said to "calls" in the course of
the scene, while the stage is still occupied, with certain of the
characters of the drama reduced to lay figures by the conduct of their
playfellows and the public? Yet in modern times Ophelias, after
tripping off insane to find a watery grave, have been summoned back to
the stage to acknowledge suavely enough by smiles and curtsies the
excessive applause of the spectators, greatly to the perplexity of
King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, and Laertes, and seriously to the
injury of the poet's design--and this is but a sample of the follies
of the modern theatre in this respect.

Such calls, recalls, and imbecile compliments are indeed wholly
reprehensible, and should be suppressed as strenuously as possible.
The managers of the Theatre Royal at Dresden some few years since
forbade the performers to accept calls before the termination of an
act, as "the practice interrupted the progress of the action on the
stage," and respectfully requested the audience to abstain from such
demands in future. Would that this ordinance had obtained more general

Writing in 1830, Mr. Parke describes the custom of encoring performers
as a prerogative that had been exercised by the public for more than a
century; and says, with some justice, that it originated more from
self-love in the audience than from gratitude to those who had
afforded them pleasure. He considered, however, that encoring had done
service upon the whole, by exciting emulation, and stimulating singers
to extraordinary exertion; and that though, in many instances, it
destroyed the illusion of the scene, it had become so fixed that, in
spite even of the burlesque of encoring Lord Grizzle's dying song in
Fielding's "Tom Thumb," it continued to prevail as much as ever. He
notes it as curious that, "in calling for a repetition, the audiences
of the French and English theatres should each have selected a word
forming no part of their respective languages--the former making use
of the Latin word, _bis_; and the latter the French word, _encore_."
Double encores, we gather from the same authority, first occurred in
England, at the Opera House, during the season of 1808, when Madame
Catalani was compelled to sing three times one of her songs in the
comic opera, "La Freschetana." As none of the great singers, her
predecessors--Mara, Banti, Grassini, and Billington--had ever received
a similar compliment, this appeared extraordinary, until the fact
oozed out that Catalani, as part of her engagement, had stipulated
for the privilege of sending into the house fifty orders on each night
of her performance. After this discovery double encores ceased for a
time at the King's Theatre; but the system reappeared at Covent
Garden, by way of compliment to Braham, each time the great tenor sang
the favourite polacca in the opera of "The Cabinet;" and subsequently
like honours were paid to Sinclair upon his return from Italy. Until
then, it would seem, Mr. Sinclair had been well satisfied with one
encore, and exceedingly anxious that smaller favour should, on no
account, be withheld from him. When he played the part of Don Carlos,
in the opera of "The Duenna," he was disappointed with the measure of
applause bestowed upon his efforts, and complained that the obbligato
cadenza--which Mr. Parke had time out of mind played on the oboe in
the symphony of the song, "Had I a heart for falsehood framed"--interfered
with the effect of his singing, and that the applause which was
obtained by the cadenza deprived him of his encore. Accordingly
he requested that the cadenza might be suppressed. "Though
I thought this a mean and silly application," says Mr. Parke, "I
complied with it, and never interfered with his encores afterwards."
It must be said for Sinclair, however, that encores had come to be
regarded as tests of a singer's merits, and that a re-engagement at
the theatre sometimes depended upon this demonstration of public
approval. At Vauxhall Gardens, indeed, the manager--"who was not,"
says Mr. Parke, "a musical luminary"--formed his opinion of the
capacities of his singers from the report of a person appointed to
register the number of encores obtained by each during the season. The
singers who had received the most encores were forthwith re-engaged
for the next year. Upon the whole, however, the system was not found
to be completely satisfactory. The inferior vocalists, stimulated by
the fear of losing their engagements, took care to circulate orders
judiciously among their friends, with instructions as to the songs
that were to be particularly applauded; and it frequently resulted
that the worst performers, if the most artful manoeuvrers, were at the
head of the poll at the end of the season, and re-engaged over the
heads of superior artists, and greatly to the ultimate detriment of
the concern. In reference to this system of obtaining encores, Mr.
Parke cautiously observes: "Without presuming to insinuate that it was
surreptitiously introduced into our English theatres, I may be
permitted to observe, after forty years' experience in theatrical
tactics, that it would not be difficult, through a judicious
distribution of determined _forcers_ in various parts of a theatre,
with Herculean hands and stentorian voices, to achieve that enviable
distinction." Possibly the reader, bearing in mind certain great
successes and double and treble encores of our own time, may confirm,
from his own experience, Mr. Parke's opinions and suggestions in this

It was a rule of the theatre of the last century that, although the
audience were at liberty to demand the presence of an actor upon the
stage, particularly with a view to his giving an explanation of any
matter in which he had offended them, this privilege did not extend to
the case of anyone connected with the theatre other than in a
histrionic capacity. Thus, when in the year 1744 a serious riot
occurred in Drury-lane Theatre, relative to the excessive charges made
for admission to an old entertainment--it being understood that for
new entertainments it was permissible to raise the prices--"the
Manager (Mr. Fleetwood) was called for by the audience in full cry;
but, not being an actor, he pleaded his privilege of being exempted
from appearing on the stage before them, and sent them word by one of
the performers that he was ready to confer with any persons they
should depute to meet him in his own room. A deputation accordingly
went from the pit, and the house patiently waited their return."

At this time, no doubt, the actor laboured under certain social
disadvantages; and the manager who did not act, however insignificant
a person otherwise, was generally regarded as enjoying a more
dignified position than that occupied by the most eminent of
performers. In time, of course, the status of the actor improved, and
he outgrew the supposititious degradation attaching to his exercise of
his profession. We have lived to see composers, authors, and even
scene-painters summoned before the foot-lights, nothing loath,
apparently, to accept this public recognition of their merits. But
these are innovations of quite recent date. In a reputable literary
and critical journal,[6] of forty years back, appears an account of
the production at the English Opera House (now the Lyceum Theatre) of
the opera of "Nourjahad," the work of the late Mr. E.J. Loder, of
Bath, then described as the leader of the theatrical orchestra there,
and the son and successor of Mr. Loder, whose talents as a musician
had been long known in that city, and at the Philharmonic and other
concerts. Much praise is awarded to the work, and then we find the
following paragraph:

     [6] _The Athenæum._

"The silly practice of calling for a favourite actor at the end of a
play was upon this occasion, for the first time, extended to a
composer; and Mr. E.J. Loder was produced upon the stage to make his
bow. As the chance portion of the audience could not possibly be aware
that a gentleman so little known in London was present, it would have
betrayed less of the secrets of the prison-house if this bit of
nonsense had not been preconcerted by injudicious and over-zealous
friends. The turn of successful authors will, we suppose, come next;
and, therefore, such of them as are not actors had better take a few
lessons in bowing over the lamps and be ready. We know some half-dozen
whom this process would cause to shake in their shoes more vehemently
than even the already accumulated anxieties of a first night."

The critic was, in some sort, a seer. The turn of the authors arrived
in due course, some years later, although history has not been careful
to record the name of the first English dramatist who appeared before
the curtain and bowed "over the lamps." How far the accomplishment of
this proceeding is attended by shaking in the shoes, is preluded by
lessons in the art of deportment, or adds to the anxieties of a first
representation, must be left for some successful playwright to reveal.

It may be noted that this calling for the author is also of foreign
origin. The first dramatist called before the curtain in France was
Voltaire, after the production of "Merope;" the second was Marmontel,
after the representation of his tragedy of "Dionysius." More than a
century ago the author of a "Letter to Mr. Garrick" observed that it
was then usual in France for the audience of a new and well-approved
tragedy to summon the author before them that he might personally
receive the tribute of public approbation due to his talents. "Nothing
like this," he writes, "ever happened in England." "And I may say,
never will," commented the author of a reply to the letter, with more
confidence than correctness of prophecy. Further, he writes, "I know
not how far a French audience may carry their complaisance, but, were
I in the author's case, I should be unwilling to trust to the civility
of an English pit or gallery.... Suppose that every play that is
offered should be received, and suppose that some one of them should
happen to be damned, might not an English audience on this occasion
call for the author, not to partake of their applause, indeed, but to
receive the tokens of their displeasure?" Fears of this kind have been
proved groundless, however. When a play has been condemned, the actors
and the manager may suffer, and be subjected sometimes to very
considerable affront; but the public wrath is not visibly inflicted
upon the author. He is left to the punishment of his reflections and
his disappointed hopes. Certainly he incurs no bodily risk from the
incivility of the pit or gallery. But the old violent method of
condemning a play is nearly out of vogue. The offending work is now
left to expire of inanition, as it were. Empty benches and a void
treasury are found to be efficacious means of convincing a manager
that he has failed in his endeavour to entertain the public.

For some time the successful author, yielding to the demand that he
should appear personally before the audience, was content to "bow his
acknowledgments"--for so the proceeding is generally described--from a
private box. It was felt, however, that this was but a half measure.
He could be seen by a portion of the audience only. From the private
box to the stage was but a step, and the opinion prevailed that if he
was to appear at all, he must manifest himself thoroughly, and allow
the whole house a fair opportunity of viewing him. Still it should be
understood that it is at the option of the dramatist to present
himself publicly or to remain in private, and leave the audience to
form such conjectures as may occur to them concerning the nature of
his physical aspect. The public have no more real right to insist on
the dramatic author's crossing the stage than to require that a
successful poet, or novelist, or historian, shall remain on view at
his publisher's for a specified time after the production of his
latest work. It is necessary to insist on this, because a little scene
that occurred a short time since in a London theatre shows some
misapprehension on the subject in the minds of certain of the public.
A successful play had been produced by a well-known writer, who was
called for in the usual manner at the conclusion of the performance.
The stage-manager explained the non-appearance of the author--he was
not in the house. Thereupon an angry gentleman stood up in the pit,
and demanded "Why isn't he here? He was here during the performance,
because I saw him." The stage-manager could only repeat that the
dramatist was not then in the theatre. "But he never appears when he's
called for," cried the complainant; and he proceeded to mention
instances in support of his statement, the stage-manager being
detained upon the stage some time during the progress of his argument.
The sympathies of the house appeared to be altogether with the
expostulant, and the notion that the author had any right to please
himself in the matter failed to obtain countenance. Upon a subsequent
occasion, indeed, the author in question--another of his works having
been given to the stage--thought it prudent to comply with the public
demand, and, though with evident reluctance, presented himself before
the foot-lights, to be inspected by his admirers and to receive their
congratulations. He yielded to a tyranny he was quite justified in
resisting. Other authors, though whether or not from unwillingness to
appear can hardly be affirmed, have forborne to attend the first
representation of their plays, and the audience have been compelled to
be content with the announcement--"Mr. ---- is absent from London."
Sometimes particulars are supplied, and happy Mr. ---- is stated to be
"probably, at that precise moment, enjoying his cigar upon the
esplanade at Brighton," it being added, that "intelligence of the
triumphant reception of his new play shall be forthwith despatched to
him by means of the electric telegraph."

If the name of the English author who first bowed over the foot-lights
cannot now be ascertained, a dramatist perfectly willing to adopt that
course can nevertheless be mentioned. To Talfourd the representation
of his dramatic works was always a source of intense delight. He would
travel almost any distance to see one of his plays upon the boards.
Macready has left some curious particulars touching the first
production of "Ion": "Was called for very enthusiastically by the
audience, and cheered on my appearance most heartily.... Miss Ellen
Tree was afterwards called forward. Talfourd came into my room and
heartily shook hands with me and thanked me. He said something about
Mr. Wallack, the stage-manager, wishing him _to go on the stage as
they were calling; but it would not be right_. I said: _'On no account
in the world.'_ He shortly left me, and, as I heard, was made to go
forward to the front of his box and receive the enthusiastic tribute
of the house's grateful delight." How happy he must have been! In
1838, concerning the first night of Sheridan Knowles's play of
"Woman's Wit," Macready writes: "Acted Walsingham in a very crude,
nervous, unsatisfactory way. Avoided a call by going before the
curtain to give out the play; there was very great enthusiasm. Led on
Knowles in obedience to the call of the audience." But Knowles was not
an author only, he was an actor also--he had trod the boards as his
own Master Walter, and in other parts, although he was not included in
the cast of "Woman's Wit." No doubt, from Macready's point of view,
this distinguished his case clearly from that of Talfourd's.

After the calling on of authors came the calling on of scene-painters.
But of late, with the help of much salutary criticism on the subject,
a disposition has arisen to check this very preposterous method of
acknowledging the merits of a worthy class, who should be satisfied
with learning from the wings or the back of the stage the admiration
excited by their achievements, and should consider themselves in such
wise as sufficiently rewarded. If they are to appear between their
scenes and the public, why not also the costumiers and the
gas-fitters, and the numberless other contributors to theatrical
success and glory? Indeed, as a rule, the applause, calls, and encores
of the theatre are honours to be conferred on singers and actors only,
are their rightful and peculiar property, and should hardly be
diverted from them or shared with others, upon any pretence whatever.



A horse in the highway is simply a horse and nothing more; but,
transferred to the theatre, the noble animal becomes a _real_ horse.
The distinction is necessary in order that there may be no confusing
the works of nature with the achievements of the property-maker. Not
that this indispensable dramatic artist shrinks from competition. But
he would not have ascribed to him the production of another
manufactory, so to say. His business is in counterfeits; he views with
some disdain a genuine article. When the famous elephant Chunee
stepped upon the stage of Covent Garden, the chief performer in the
pantomime of "Harlequin and Padmanaba, or the Golden Fish," the
creature was but scornfully regarded by Mr. Johnson, the property-man
of Drury Lane. "I should be very sorry," he cried, "if I could not
make a better elephant than that!" And it would seem that he
afterwards justified his pretensions, especially in the eyes of the
playgoers prizing imitative skill above mere reality. We read in the
parody of Coleridge, in "Rejected Addresses":

    Amid the freaks that modern fashion sanctions,
    It grieves me much to see live animals
    Brought on the stage. Grimaldi has his rabbit,
    Laurent his cat, and Bradbury his pig;
    Fie on such tricks! Johnson, the machinist,
    Of former Drury, imitated life
    Quite to the life! The elephant in Blue Beard,
    Stuffed by his hand, wound round his lithe proboscis
    As spruce as he who roared in Padmanaba.

But no doubt an artificial elephant is more easily to be fabricated
than an artificial horse. We do not encounter real elephants at every
turn with which to compare the counterfeit. The animal is of bulky
proportions and somewhat ungainly movements. With a frame of
wicker-work and a hide of painted canvas, the creature can be fairly
represented. But a horse is a different matter. Horses abound,
however, and have proved themselves, time out of mind, apt pupils.
They can readily be trained and taught to perform all kinds of feats
and antics. So the skill of the property-maker is not taxed. He stands
on one side, and permits the real horse to enter upon the mimic scene.

When Don Adriano de Armado, the fantastical Spaniard of "Love's
Labour's Lost," admits that he is "ill at reckoning," and cannot tell
"how many is one thrice told," his page Moth observes "how easy it is
to put years to the word three, and study three years in two words,
the dancing horse will tell you." This is without doubt an allusion to
a horse called Marocco, trained by its master, one Banks, a Scotchman,
to perform various strange tricks. Marocco, a young bay nag of
moderate size, was exhibited in Shakespeare's time in the courtyard of
the Belle Sauvage Inn, on Ludgate Hill, the spectators lining the
galleries of the hostelry. A pamphlet, published in 1595, and entitled
"Maroccos Exstaticus, or Bankes Bay Horse in a Traunce; a Discourse
set down in a Merry Dialogue between Bankes and his Beast," contains a
wood-print of the performing animal and his proprietor. Banks's horse
must have been one of the earliest "trained steeds" ever exhibited.
His tricks excited great amazement, although they would hardly now be
accounted very wonderful. Marocco could walk on his hind legs, and
even dance the Canaries. At the bidding of his master he would carry a
glove to a specified lady or gentleman, and tell, by raps with his
hoof, the numbers on the upper face of a pair of dice. He went
through, indeed, much of what is now the regular "business" of the
circus horse. In 1600 Banks amazed London by taking his horse up to
the vane on the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. Marocco visited Scotland
and France, and in these countries his accomplishments were generally
attributable to witchcraft. Banks rashly encouraged the notion that
his nag was supernaturally endowed. An alarm was raised that Marocco
was possessed by the Evil One. To relieve misgivings and escape
reproach, Banks made his horse pay homage to the sign of the cross,
and called upon all to observe that nothing satanic could have been
induced to perform this act of reverence. A rumour at one time
prevailed that the horse and his master had both, as "subjects of the
Black Power of the world," been burned at Rome by order of the Pope.
More authentic accounts, however, show Banks as surviving to Charles
I.'s time, and thriving as a vintner in Cheapside. But it is to be
gathered from Douce's "Illustrations of Shakespeare," that of old
certain performing horses suffered miserably for their skill. In a
little book, "Le Diable Bossu," Nancy, 1708, allusion is made to the
burning alive at Lisbon, in 1707, of an English horse, whose master
had taught him to know the cards; and Grainger, in his "Biographical
History of England," 1779, states that, within his remembrance, "a
horse, which had been taught to perform several tricks, was, with its
owner, put into the Inquisition."

Marocco was but a circus horse; there is no evidence to show that he
ever trod the stage or took any part in theatrical performances. It is
hard to say, indeed, when horses first entered a regular theatre.
Pepys chronicles, in 1668, a visit "to the King's Playhouse, to see an
old play of Shirley's, called 'Hide Park,' the first day acted
[revived], where horses are brought upon the stage." He expresses no
surprise at the introduction of the animals, and this may not have
been their first appearance on the scene. He is content to note that
"Hide Park" is "a very moderate play, only an excellent epilogue
spoken by Beck Marshall." The scene of the third and fourth acts of
the comedy lies in the Park, and foot and horse races are represented.
The horses probably were only required to cross the stage once or

A representation of Corneille's tragedy of "Andromeda," in 1682,
occasioned great excitement in Paris, owing to the introduction of a
"real horse" to play the part of Pegasus. The horse was generally
regarded as a kind of Roscius of the brute creation, and achieved an
extraordinary success. Adorned with wings and hoisted up by machinery,
he neighed and tossed his head, pawed and pranced in mid-air after a
very lively manner. It was a mystery then, but it is common enough
knowledge now, that the horse's histrionic skill is founded upon his
appetite. Kept without food for some time the horse becomes naturally
moved at the sight of a sieve of corn in the side-wings. His feats,
the picking up of gloves and handkerchiefs, even the pulling of
triggers, originate but in his efforts to find oats. By-and-by his
memory is exercised, and he is content to know that after the
conclusion of his "business" he will be rewarded with oats behind the
scenes. The postponement of his meals attends his failure to
accomplish what is required of him. Of old, perhaps, some cruel use of
whip and spur may have marked the education of the "trick-horse." But
for a long time past the animal's fears have not been appealed to, but
simply his love of food. Horses are very sagacious, and their natural
timidity once appeased, they become exceedingly docile. An untrained
horse has often shown himself equal to the ordinary requirements of
the equestrian manager after only four days of tuition.

Pope satirised the introduction of horses in Shakespeare's "Henry
VIII.," revived with great splendour in 1727, when a representation
was given of the coronation of Anne Bullen, and the royal champion,
duly mounted and caparisoned, proclaimed his challenge. But for many
years the appearances on the stage of equine performers were only of
an occasional kind. It was not until the rebuilding of Astley's, in
1803, that the equestrian drama became an established entertainment.
An extensive stage was then added to the circus, and "horse
spectacles," as they were called, were first presented. A grand drama
called "The Blood-Red Knight," produced in 1810, resulted in a profit
to the proprietors of £18,000, a handsome sum, seeing that the season
at that time only extended from Easter to the end of September.

The triumphs of Astley's excited the envy of the Covent Garden
managers. Colman's drama of "Blue Beard" was reproduced, with Mr.
Johnson's imitation elephant and a troop of real horses. The
performance was presented on forty-four nights, a long run in those
days. There was, of course, much wrath excited by this degradation of
the stage. A contemporary critic writes: "A novel and marked event
occurred at this theatre on this evening (18th of February, 1811),
which should be considered as a black epocha for ever by the loyal
adherents to wit and the Muses. As the Mussulmen date their
computation of years from the flight of Mahomet, so should the hordes
of folly commence their triumphant register from the open flight of
common-sense on this memorable night, when a whole troop of horses
made their first appearance in character at Covent Garden." The
manager was fiercely denounced for his unscrupulous endeavours "to
obtain money at the expense of his official dignity." Another critic,
alleging that "the dressing-rooms of the new company of comedians were
under the orchestra," complained that "in the first row of the pit the
stench was so abominable, one might as well have sitten in a stable."
Still the "equestrian drama" delighted the town. "Blue Beard" was
followed by Monk Lewis's "Timour the Tartar," in which more horses
appeared. Some hissing was heard at the commencement of the new drama,
and placards were exhibited in the pit condemning the horses; but in
the end "Timour" triumphed over all opposition, and rivalled the run
of "Blue Beard." It is to be remembered, especially by those who
insist so much on the degeneracy of the modern theatre, that these
"horse spectacles" were presented in a patent house during the palmy
days of the drama, while the Kemble family was still in possession of
the stage of Covent Garden.

These equestrian doings were satirised at the Haymarket Theatre in the
following summer. "The Quadrupeds of Quedlinburgh, or the Rovers of
Weimar," was produced, being an adaptation by Colman of a burlesque,
attributed to Canning, in "The Anti-Jacobin." It was designed to
ridicule not merely the introduction of horses upon the stage, but
also the then prevailing taste for morbid German dramas of the
Kotzebue school. The prologue was in part a travestie of Pope's
prologue to "Cato," and contained references to the plays of "Lovers'
Vows" and "The Stranger."

    To lull the soul by spurious strokes of art,
    To warp the genius and mislead the heart,
    To make mankind revere wives gone astray,
    Love pious sons who rob on the highway,
    For this the foreign muses trod our stage,
    Commanding German schools to be the rage.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Dear Johnny Bull, you boast much resolution,
    With, thanks to Heaven, a glorious constitution;
    Your taste, recovered half from foreign quacks,
    Takes airings now on English horses' backs.
    While every modern bard may raise his name,
    If not on lasting praise, on stable fame.
    Think that to Germans you have given no check,
    Think bow each actor horsed has risked his neck;
    You've shown them favour. Oh, then, once more show it
    To this night's Anglo-German horse-play poet.

In the course of the play the sentimental sentinel in "Pizarro" was
ridiculed, and the whole concluded with a grand battle, in which the
last scene of "Timour the Tartar" was imitated and burlesqued.
"Stuffed ponies and donkeys frisked about with ludicrous agility,"
writes a critic of the time. The play was thoroughly successful, and
would seem to have retrieved the fortunes of the theatre, which had
been long in a disastrous condition.

Drury Lane also struck a blow at the "horse spectacles" of the rival
house. In 1812 was produced "Quadrupeds; or, The Manager's Last Kick."
This was only a revised version of the old burlesque of "The Tailors,
a Tragedy for Warm Weather," usually ascribed to Foote. In the last
scene an army of tailors appeared, mounted on asses and mules, and
much fun of a pantomimic kind ensued. Some years later, however, Drury
Lane was content to derive profit from a drama in which "real horses"
appeared, with the additional attraction of "real water." This was
Moncrieff's play of "The Cataract of the Ganges." Indeed, Drury Lane
was but little entitled to vaunt its superiority in the matter. In
1803 its treasury had greatly benefited from the feats of the "real
dog" in Reynolds's melodrama "The Caravan." "Real water," indeed, had
been brought upon the stage by Garrick himself, who owed his
prosperity, not more to his genius as an actor than to his ingenuity
as a purveyor of pantomime and spectacles. One of his addresses to his
audience contains the lines--

    What eager transport stares from every eye,
    When pulleys rattle and our genii fly,
    When tin cascades like falling waters gleam,
    Or through the canvas bursts the real stream,
    While thirsty Islington laments in vain
    Half her New River rolled to Drury Lane.

Of late years a change has come over the equestrian drama. The circus
flourishes, and quadrupeds figure now and then upon the stage, but the
"horse spectacle" has almost vanished. The noble animal is to be seen
occasionally on the boards, but he is cast for small parts only, is
little better than a four-footed supernumerary. He comes on to aid
the pageantry of the scene; even opera does not disdain his services
in this respect. A richly-caparisoned charger performs certain simple
duties in "Masaniello," in "Les Huguenots," "L'Etoile du Nord,"
"Martha," "La Juive," and some few other operas. The late M. Jullien
introduced quite a troop of cavalry in his "Pietro il Grande," but
this homage to horseflesh notwithstanding, the world did not greatly
prize the work in question. The horse no longer performs "leading
business." Plays are not now written for him. He is no longer required
to evince the fidelity and devotion of his nature by knocking at
street-doors, rescuing a prisoned master, defending oppressed
innocence, or dying in the centre of the stage to slow music.
Something of a part seemed promised him when the popular drama of
"Flying Scud" was first represented; at least, he supplied that work
with its title. But it was speedily to be perceived that animal
interests had been subordinated to human. More prominent occupation by
far was assigned to the rider than to the horse. A different plan of
distributing parts prevailed when "The High-mettled Racer" and kindred
works adorned the stage. A horse with histrionic instincts and
acquirements had something like a chance then. But now he can only
lament the decline of the equestrian drama. True, the circus is still
open to him; but in the eyes of a well-educated performing horse a
circus must be much what a music-hall is in the opinion of a tragedian
devoted to five-act plays.



The theatrical supernumerary--or the "super," as he is familiarly
called--is a man who in his time certainly plays many parts, and yet
obtains applause in none. His exits and his entrances, his _début_ and
his disappearance, alike escape criticism and record. His name is not
printed in the playbills, and is for ever unknown to his audience.
Even the persons he is supposed to represent upon the stage always
remain anonymous. Both as a living and fictitious creature he is
denied individuality, and has to be considered collectively, massed
with others, and inseparable from his companion figures. He is not so
much an actor, as part of the decorations, the animated furniture, so
to say, of the stage. Nevertheless, "supers" have their importance and
value. For how could the drama exist without its background groups:
its soldiers, citizens, peasants, courtiers, nobles, guests, and
attendants of all kinds? These give prominence, support, and effect to
the leading characters of the theatre; and these are the "supers."

Upon the French stage the minor assistants of the scene are
comprehensively described as _les choristes_. In this way the pedigree
of the "super" gains something of nobility, and may, perhaps, be
traced back to the chorus of the antique drama, a body charged with
most momentous duties, with symbolic mysteries of dance and song,
removed from the perils and catastrophes of the play, yet required in
regard to these to guide and interpret the sympathies of the
spectators. In its modern application, however, this generic term has
its subdivisions, and includes _les choristes_ proper, who boast
musical attainments, and are obedient to the rule of a _chef
d'attaque_, or head chorister; _les accessoires_, performers permitted
speech of a brief kind, who can be entrusted upon occasion with such
simple functions as opening a door, placing a chair, or delivering a
letter, and who correspond in many respects with our actors of
utility; _les figurants_, the subordinate dancers led by a _coryphée_;
and lastly, _les comparses_, who closely resemble our supernumeraries,
and are engaged in more or less numbers, according to the exigencies
of there presentation. Of these aids to performance _les comparses_
only enjoy no regular salaries, are not formally enrolled among the
permanent members of the establishment, but are paid simply for
appearing--seventy-five centimes for the night, and fifty centimes for
each rehearsal--or upon some such modest scale of remuneration. This
classification would appear to afford opportunities to ambition. Here
are steps in the ladder, and merit should be able to ascend. It is
understood, however, that as a rule _les comparses_ do not rise. They
are the serfs of the stage, who never obtain manumission. They are as
conscripts, from whose knapsacks the field-marshal's _bâton_ is almost
invariably omitted. They become veterans, but their length of service
receives no favourable recognition. _Comparses_ they live, and
_comparses_ they die, or disappear, not apparently discontented with
their doom, however. Meantime the _figurant_ cherishes sanguine hopes
that he may one day rise to a prominent position in the ballet, or
that he may become an _accessoire_; and the _accessoire_ looks forward
fervently to ranking in the future among the regular actors or
_artistes_ of the theatre, with the right of entering its _grand
foyer_, or superior green-room. Until then he must confine himself and
his aspirations to the _petit foyer_ set apart for the use of players
of his class.

Thus it is told of a certain _accessoire_ of the Porte St. Martin, in
years past, who had won a scarcely appreciable measure of fame for his
adroitness in handing letters or coffee-cups upon a salver, and even
for the propriety with which he announced, in the part of a footman,
the guests and visitors of a drama--such as "Monsieur le Vicomte de
St. Rémy!" or "Madame la Marquise de Roncourt!"--that he applied to
his manager for an increase of his salary on account of the special
value of his services. "I do not expect," he frankly said,
"immediately to receive 25,000 francs, as Monsieur Frédéric Lemaitre
does; no, not yet; although I bear in mind that Monsieur Lemaitre
began his career with fighting broadsword combats in Madame Saqui's
circus; but my present salary is but 600 francs a-year, and a slight

"Monsieur Fombonne," interrupted the manager, "I acknowledge the
justice of your application. I admire and esteem you. You are one of
the most useful members of my company. I well know your worth; no one

Monsieur Fombonne, glowing with pleasure, bowed in his best manner.

"I may venture to hope, then--"

"By all means, Monsieur Fombonne. Hope sustains us under all our
afflictions. Always hope. For my part, hope is the only thing left me.
Business is wretched. The treasury is empty. I cannot possibly raise
your salary. But you are an artist, and therefore above pecuniary
considerations. I do not--I cannot--offer you money. But I can gratify
a laudable ambition. Hitherto you have ranked only as an _accessoire_;
from this time forward you are an actor. I give you the right of
entering the _grand foyer_. You are permitted to call Monsieur
Lemaitre _mon camarade_; to _tutoyer_ Mademoiselle Theodorine. I am
sure, Monsieur Fombonne, that you will thoroughly appreciate the
distinction I have conferred upon you."

Monsieur Fombonne was delighted. He was subsequently to discover,
however, that some disadvantages attended his new dignity; that the
medal he had won had its reverse. The _accessoires_ and _figurants_ of
the theatre always received their salaries on the first day of each
month. The _artistes_ were not paid until the sixth or seventh day.
Monsieur Fombonne had to live upon credit for a week as the price of
his new privileges. His gain was shadowy; his loss substantial.

With the choristers proper we are not here much concerned. They are
not fairly to be classed among "supers," and they pertain almost
exclusively to the lyric stage. It is to be noted, however, that they
are in some sort evidence of the connection that once existed between
the Church and the Theatre; the ecclesiastical and the laical drama.
At any rate, the chorus singers often undertake divided duties in this
respect, and accept engagements both at the cathedral and the
opera-house. And sometimes it has happened that the discharge of their
dual obligations has involved them in serious difficulties. Thus, some
years since, there is said to have been a Christmas spectacle in
preparation at the Opera House in Paris. The entertainment was of a
long and elaborate kind, and for its perfect production numberless
rehearsals, early and late, dress and undress, were imperatively
necessary. Now the chorus of the opera also represented the choir of
Notre Dame. It was a season of the year for which the Church has
appointed many celebrations. The singers were incessantly running to
and fro between the Opera House and Notre Dame. Often they had not a
moment to spare, and punctuality in attending their appointments was
scarcely possible, while the trouble of so frequently changing their
costumes was extremely irksome to them. On one occasion a dress
rehearsal at the theatre, which commenced at a very late hour, after
the conclusion of the ordinary performance of the evening, was so
protracted that the time for the early service at the cathedral was
rapidly approaching. The chorus appeared as demons at the opera, and
wore the tight-fitting scaly dresses which time out of mind have been
invested upon the stage with diabolical attributes. What were they to
do? Was there time to undress and dress again? Scarcely. Besides, was
it worth the trouble? It was very dark; bitterly cold; there was not a
soul to be seen in the streets; all Paris was abed and asleep.
Moreover, the door of the sacristy would be ready open to receive
them, and their white stoles would be immediately obtainable. Well,
the story goes that these desperate singers, accoutred as they were,
ran as fast as they could to Notre Dame, veiled their satanic dresses
beneath the snowy surplices of the choir, and accomplished their
sacred duties without any discovery of the impropriety of their
conduct. It is true they encountered in their course a patrol of the
civic guard; but the representatives of law and order, forming
probably their own conclusions as to the significance of the demoniac
apparition, are said to have prudently taken to flight in an opposite

Upon our early English stage the "super" had frequent occupation; the
Shakespearean drama, indeed, makes large demands upon the mute
performers. The stage at this time was not very spacious, however,
and was in part occupied by the more pretentious of the spectators,
who, seated upon stools, or reclining upon the rushes which strewed
the boards, were attended by their pages, and amused themselves with
smoking their pipes and noisily criticising the performance. There was
little room therefore for any great number of supernumeraries. But
spectacles--to which the "super" has always been indispensable--had
already won the favour of playgoers. Sir Henry Wotton writes in 1613
of a new play produced at the Globe Theatre, "called 'All is True,'
representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII., which
was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and
majesty, even to matting of the stage; the knights of the order with
their Georges and Garter, the guards with their embroidered coats and
the like; sufficient, in truth, within a while to make greatness very
familiar, if not ridiculous." "Supers" must surely have been employed
on this occasion. It is clear, however, that the money-takers, or
"gatherers," as they were called, after the audience had assembled,
and their presence was no longer needed at the doors, were accustomed
to appear upon the stage as the representatives of guards, soldiers,
&c. An early play refers to the combats of the scene being
accomplished by "the blue-coated stage-keepers," or attendants. And
the actors were classified at this time, according to their
professional standing, as "whole sharers," "three-quarter sharers,"
"half sharers," and "hired men," or "servitors." The leading players
were as joint proprietors in the undertaking, and divided the receipts
among them according to a prearranged scale. Minor characters were
sustained by the "servitors," who were paid, as our actors are at the
present time, by weekly wages, and had no other interest in the
success of the theatre with which they were associated, beyond desire
that its exchequer might always be equal to their claims upon it.
Philip Henslowe's "Diary" contains an entry regarding a non-sharing
actor: "Hiered as a covenant servant Willyam Kendall--to give him for
his said servis everi week of his playing in London ten shillings, and
in the countrie five shillings, for the which he covenaunteth to be
redye at all houres to play in the house of the said Philip, and in no
other." It may be noted that Shakespeare's first connection with the
Globe Theatre is shown upon fair evidence to have been originally
that of a "servitor." In that case the poet must often have been
required to appear in very subordinate characters--perhaps even
characters not entrusted with speech. Will it inflame too violently
the ambition of our modern "supers" to suggest to them that very
possibly Shakespeare himself may have preceded them in the performance
of their somewhat inglorious duties? The hired men or servitors were
under the control and in the pay of the proprietor or manager of the
theatre, and their salaries constituted no charge upon the shares of
the chief actors. Still these were entitled to complain, apparently,
if the hired men were too few in number to give due effect to the
representations. In 1614 a dispute arose between Henslowe and his
sharing actors, by reason of his having suddenly reduced his expenses
by dismissing "four hired men." He had previously sought to charge
their stipends upon the shares, although bound by agreement to defray
these expenses out of the money derived from the galleries--at this
time, perhaps, a managerial perquisite. But in addition to the
servitors, as the representatives of minor and mute characters, there
were also available the journeymen or apprentices of the more eminent
performers. If they paid no premium upon being articled, novices were
at any rate bound in return for the education they received to hand
their earnings, or a large part of them, to their masters. And this is
precisely the case at the present time in regard to the pupils of
musical professors and the teachers of singing, dancing, and feats of
the circus. The services of the apprentices were transferable, and
could be bought and sold. There is quite a slave-trade aspect about
the following entry in Henslowe's "Diary." "Bowght my boye Jeames
Brystow, of William Augusten, player, the 8th of December, 1597, for
eight pounds." Augustine Phillips, the actor, one of Shakespeare's
partners, who died in 1605, and who by his will bequeathed to
Shakespeare "a thirty shillings peece in gould," also gave to "Samuell
Gilborne, my late apprentice, the some of fortye shillings, and my
mouse-coloured velvit hose, and a white taffety dublet, a blacke
taffety sute, my purple cloke, sword and dagger, and my base viall."
He also gave to "James Sands, my apprentice, the some of forty
shillings and a citterne, a bandore, and a lute, to be paid and
delivered unto him at the expiration of his terme of yeres in his
indentur of apprenticehood." From his bequests of musical instruments,
it has been conjectured that Phillips sometimes played in what is now
called the orchestra of the theatre. A sum of forty shillings in
Elizabeth's time represents the value of about ten pounds of our
currency. What with its "gatherers," "servitors," and journeymen, the
Shakespearean stage was obviously provided sufficiently with
supernumerary assistants.

The "super" is useful, even ornamental in his way, though it behoves
him always to stand aloof from the foot-lights, so that distance may
lend his aspect as much enchantment as possible; but he is not highly
esteemed by the general public. In truth he has been long the object
of ridicule and caricature. He is charged with stupidity, and is
popularly considered as a very absurd sort of creature. But he has
resigned his own volition; he has but to obey. He is as a puppet whose
wires are pulled by others. He is under the rule of a "super-master,"
who is in his turn governed by the wavings of the prompter's white
flag in the wings, the prompter being controlled by the stage-manager,
who is supposed to be the executant of the dramatist's intentions. The
"super's" position upon the stage is strictly defined for him;
sometimes even marked on the boards with chalk. He may not move until
the word of command is given him, and then every change of station or
attitude must be pursuant to previous instruction. And his duties are
sometimes arduous. He may often be required to change his attire and
assume a new personality in the course of one night's performances. A
member of a band of brigands in one scene, he may in another be
enrolled in a troop of soldiers, sent to combat with and capture those
malefactors. In the same play he may wear now the robes of a nobleman,
and now the rags of a mendicant. A demon possessed of supernatural
powers at the opening of a pantomime, he is certain before its close
to be found among those good-natured people who saunter across the
stage for the sole purpose, as it would seem, of being assaulted and
battered by the clown and pantaloon. It is not surprising altogether
that a certain apathy gradually steals over him, and that such
intelligence as he ever possessed becomes in time somewhat numbed by
the peculiar nature of his profession. Moreover, in regard to the play
in which he takes part he is generally but dimly informed. Its plot
and purpose are mysteries to him. He never sees it represented or
rehearsed as an entirety. His own simple duties accomplished, he is
hurried to the rear of the stage to be out of the way of the actors.
Why he bends his knee to one performer and loads another with fetters;
why there is banning in this scene and blessing in that; why the
heroine in white adores the gallant in blue and abominates her suitor
in red, are to him inexplicable matters. The dramas in which he
figures only impress his mind in relation to the dresses he is
constrained to assume during their representation, the dresses being
never of his own choosing, rarely fitting him, and their significance
being always outside his comprehension. To him the tragedy of "King
John" is but the occasion on which he and his fellows "wore them
tin-pots on our 'eads;" "Julius Cæsar" the play in which "we went on
in sheets." "What are we supposed to be?" a curious "super" once
inquired of a more experienced comrade. "Blessed if I know!" was the
answer. "Demons, I expect." They were clothing themselves in
chain-mail, and were "supposed to be"--Crusaders.

The "super's" dress is, indeed, his prime consideration, and out of it
arises his greatest grievance. He must surrender himself
unconditionally to the costumier, and obey implicitly his behests.
Summer or winter he has no voice in the question; he must clothe
himself warmly or scantily, just as he is bidden. "Always fleshings
when there's a frost," a "super" was once heard to grumble, who
conceived the classical system of dress or undress--and for that
matter, perhaps, the classical drama also--to be invented solely for
his inconvenience and discomfort. But more trying than this antique
garb is the demoniac mask of pantomime, which is as a diver's helmet
ill provided with appliances for admitting air or permitting outlook.
The group of panting "supers," with their mimic heads under their
arms--their faces smeared with red or blue, in accordance with
direction, not of their own choice--to be discovered behind the scenes
during the performance of a Christmas piece, is an impressive portion
of the spectacle, although it is withheld from the contemplation of
the audience. There have been "supers" who have approached very near
to death by suffocation, from the hurtful nature of their attire,
rather than fail in the discharge of their duties. For there is
heroism everywhere.

The stage has always been fertile in the matter of anecdotage, and of
course comical stories of "supers" have abounded; for these, the
poorest of players are readily available for facetious purposes. Thus,
so far back as the days of Quin, there is record of a curious
misapprehension on the part of the supernumeraries of the time. Quin's
pronunciation was of a broad old-fashioned kind, a following of a
traditional method of elocution from which Garrick did much to release
the theatre. The play was Thomson's "Coriolanus," and Quin appeared as
the hero. In the scene of the Roman ladies' entry in procession, to
solicit the return to Rome of Coriolanus, the stage was filled with
tribunes and centurions of the Volscian army, bearing fasces, their
ensigns of authority. Quin, as the hero, commanded them to "lower
their fasces" by way of homage to the matrons of Rome. But the
representatives of the centurions understood him to mean their
_faces_, and much to the amusement of the audience all reverently
bowed their heads with absurd unanimity.

But it is as the performers of "guests" that the "supers" have
especially moved derision in our theatres; and, indeed, on the
Parisian stage _les invités_ have long been established provocatives
of laughter. The assumption of evening dress and something of the
manners of polite society has always been severely trying to the
supernumerary actor. What can he really know of balls and fashionable
assemblies? Of course speech is not demanded of him, nor is his
presence needed very near to the proscenium, but he is required to
give animation to the background, and to be as easy and graceful as he
may in his aspect and movements. The result is not satisfactory. He is
more at home in less refined situations. He is prone to indulge in
rather grotesque gestures, expressive of admiration of the brilliant
decorations surrounding him, and profuse, even servile gratitude for
the hospitality extended to him. He interchanges mute remarks,
enlivened by surprising grimaces, with the lady of the ballet, in the
shabbiest of ball dresses, who hangs affectionately upon his arm. The
limited amount of his stipend naturally asserts itself in his costume,
which will not bear critical investigation. His boots are of the
homeliest and sometimes of the muddiest; coarse dabs of rouge appear
upon his battered cheeks; his wig--for a "super" of this class almost
always wears a wig--is unkempt and decayed; his white cravat has a
burlesque air; and his gloves are of cotton. There are even stories
extant of very economical "supers" who have gone halves in a pair of
"berlins," and even expended rouge on but one side of their faces,
pleading that they were required to stand only on the right or the
left of the stage, as the case might be, and as they could thus be
seen but in profile by the audience, these defects in their appearance
could not possibly attract notice. Altogether the "super's" least
effective performance is that of "a guest."

It is a real advance for a "super" when he is charged with some small
theatrical task, which removes him from the ranks of his fellows. He
acquires individuality, though of an inferior kind. But his promotion
entails responsibilities for which he is not always prepared. Lekain,
the French tragedian, playing the part of Tancred, at Bordeaux,
required a supernumerary to act as his squire, and carry his helmet,
lance, and shield. Lekain's personal appearance was insignificant, and
his manner at rehearsal had been very subdued. The "super" thought
little of the hero he was to serve, and deemed his own duties slight
enough. But at night Lekain's majesty of port, and the commanding tone
in which he cried, _"Suivez moi!"_ to his squire, so startled and
overcame that attendant that he suddenly let fall, with a great crash,
the weapons and armour he was carrying. Something of the same kind has
often happened upon our own stage. "You distressed me very much, sir,"
said a famous tragedian once to a "super," who had committed default
in some important business of the scene. "Not more than you frightened
me, sir," the "super" frankly said. He was forgiven his failure on
account of the homage it conveyed to the tragedian's impressiveness.

M. Etienne Arago, writing some years since upon _les choristes_, calls
attention to the important services rendered to the stage by its mute
performers, and demands their wider recognition. He ventures to hold
that as much talent is necessary to constitute a tolerable _figurant_
as to make a good actor. He describes the _figurant_ as a multiform
actor, a dramatic chameleon, compelled by the special nature of his
occupation, or rather by its lack of special nature, to appear young
or old, crooked or straight, noble or base-born, savage or civilised,
according to the good pleasure of the dramatist. "Thus, when Tancred
declaims, _'Toi, superbe Orbassan, c'est toi que je défie!'_ and
flings his gauntlet upon the stage, Orbassan has but to wave his hand
and an attendant advances boldly, stoops, picks up the gage of
battle, and resumes his former position. That is thought to be a very
simple duty. But to accomplish it without provoking the mirth of the
audience is _le sublime du métier--le triomphe de l'art!_"

The emotions of an author who for the first time sees himself in
print, have often been descanted upon. The sensations of a "super,"
raised from the ranks, entrusted with the utterance of a few words,
and enabled to read the entry of his own name in the playbills, are
scarcely less entitled to sympathy. His task may be slight enough, the
measure of speech permitted him most limited; the reference to him in
the programmes may simply run--

    CHARLES (a waiter)     Mr. JONES,

or even


but the delight of the performer is infinite. His promotion is indeed
of a prodigious kind. Hitherto but a lay-figure, he is now endowed
with life. He has become an actor! The world is at length informed of
his existence. He has emerged from the crowd, and though it may be but
for a moment, can assert his individuality. He carries his part about
with him everywhere--it is but a slip of paper with one line of
writing running across it. He exhibits it boastfully to his friends.
He reads it again and again; recites it in every tone of voice he can
command--practises his elocutionary powers upon every possible
occasion. A Parisian _figurant_, advanced to the position of
_accessoire_, was so elated that he is said to have expressed surprise
that the people he met in the streets did not bow to him; that the
sentinels on guard did not present arms as he passed. His reverence
for the author in whose play he is to appear is boundless; he regards
him as a second Shakespeare, if not something more. His devotion to
the manager, who has given him the part, for a time approaches

"_Our_ new play will be a great go!" a promoted "super" once observed
to certain of his fellows, "_I_ play a policeman! I go on in the last
scene, and handcuff Mr. Rant. I have to say, 'Murder's the charge!
Stand back!' Won't that _fetch_ the house?"

There are soldiers doomed to perish in their first battle. And there
have been "supers" who have failed to justify their advancement, and,
silenced for ever, have had to fall back into the ranks again. The
French stage has a story of a _figurant_ who ruined at once a new
tragedy and his own prospects by an unhappy _lapsus linguæ_, the
result of undue haste and nervous excitement. He had but to cry aloud,
in the crisis of the drama: "_Le roi se meurt!_" He was perfect at
rehearsal; he earned the applause even of the author. A brilliant
future, as he deemed, was open to him. But at night he could only
utter, in broken tones: "_Le meurt se roi!_" and the tragic situation
was dissolved in laughter. So, in our own theatre, there is the
established legend of Delpini, the Italian clown, who, charged to
exclaim at a critical moment: "Pluck them asunder!" could produce no
more intelligible speech than "Massonder em plocket!" Much mirth in
the house and dismay on the stage ensued. But Delpini had gained his
object. He had become qualified as an actor to participate in the
benefits of the Theatrical Fund. As a mere pantomimist he was without
a title. But John Kemble had kindly furthered the claim of the foreign
clown by entrusting him for once with "a speaking part." The
tragedian, however, had been quite unprepared for the misadventure
that was to result.

It used to be said that at the Parisian Cirque, once famous for its
battle-pieces, refractory "supers" were always punished by being
required to represent "the enemy" of the evening: the Russians,
Prussians, English, or Arabs, as the case might be--who were to be
overcome by the victorious soldiers of France--repulsed at the point
of the bayonet, trampled upon and routed in a variety of ignominious
ways. The representatives of "the enemy" complained that they could
not endure to be hopelessly beaten night after night. Their
expostulation was unpatriotic; but it was natural. For "supers" have
their feelings, moral as well as physical. At one of our own theatres
a roulette-table was introduced in a scene portraying the _salon_ at
Homburg, or Baden-Baden. Certain of the "supers" petitioned that they
should not always appear as the losing gamesters. They desired
sometimes to figure among the winners. It need hardly be said that the
money that changed hands upon the occasion was only of that valueless
kind that has no sort of currency off the stage.

When "supers" appear as modern soldiers in action, it is found
advisable to load their guns for them. They fear the "kick" of their
weapons, and will, if possible, avoid firing them. Once in a military
play a troop of grenadiers were required to fire a volley. Their
officer waved his sword and gave the word of command superbly; but no
sound followed, save only that of the snapping of locks: Not a gun had
been loaded. An unfortunate unanimity had prevailed among the
grenadiers. Each had forborne to load his weapon, trusting that his
omission would escape notice in the general noise, and assured that a
shot more or less could be of little consequence. It had occurred to
no one of them that his scheme might be put into operation by others
beside himself--still less that the whole band might adopt it. But
this had happened. For the future their guns were given them loaded.



The stage, like other professions, is in some sort to be considered as
a distinct nation, possessing manners, customs, a code, and, above
all, a language of its own. This, by the outside world, is designated
"slang;" just as in one country the tongue of another is vulgarly
described as gibberish. Now and then, however, a word escapes from the
peculiar vocabulary of the players, and secures the recognition and
acceptance of the general public. It may not be forthwith registered
in formal dictionaries, or sanctioned by the martinets of speech and
style; still, like a French sou or a Jersey halfpenny appearing
amongst our copper coins, it obtains a fair degree of currency and
circulation, with little question as to the legitimacy of the mint
from which it originally issued.

"Gag" is a word of this class. It belongs of right to the actors, but
of its age or derivation nothing can be ascertained, Modern
lexicography of the best repute does not acknowledge it, and for a
long time it remained unnoticed, even by the compilers of glossaries
of strange and cant terms. Thus, it is not to be found in "Grose's
Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," published in 1796. This is
a coarse, but certainly a comprehensive work, and from its omitting to
register "gag," we may assume that the word had no ascertained
existence in Grose's time. In the "Slang Dictionary; or, The Vulgar
Words, Street Phrases, and 'Fast' Expressions of High and Low
Society," published in 1864, "gag" is duly included, and defined to
be "language introduced by an actor into his part." Long before this,
however, the word had issued from the stage-door, and its
signification had become a matter of general knowledge.

And even if the word be comparatively new, the thing it represents and
defines is certainly old enough, dating, probably, from the very birth
of the drama. So soon as the author began to write words for the
actors to deliver, so soon, be sure, did the comedians begin to
interpolate speech of their own contriving. For, as a rule, gag is the
privilege and the property of the comic performer. The tragedian does
not gag. He may require his part to be what is called "written up" for
him, and striking matter to be introduced into his scenes for his own
especial advantage, but he is generally confined to the delivery of
blank verse, and rhythmical utterances of that kind do not readily
afford opportunities for gag. There have been Macbeths who have
declined to expire upon the stage after the silent fashion prescribed
by Shakespeare, and have insisted upon declaiming the last dying
speech with which Garrick first enriched the character. But these are
actors of the past. If Shakespeare does not often appear upon the
modern stage, at any rate he is not presented in the disguised and
mutilated form which won applause in what are now viewed as the "palmy
days" of the drama. And the prepared speeches introduced by the
tragedians, however alien they may be to the dramatist's intentions,
and independent of his creations, are not properly to be considered as

It was in 1583, according to Howes' additions to Stow's "Chronicle,"
that Queen Elizabeth, at the request of Sir Francis Walsingham, and
with the advice of Mr. Edmond Tyllney, her Master of the Revels,
selected twelve performers out of some of the companies of her
nobility, to be her own dramatic servants, with the special title of
the Queen's Players. They duly took the oaths of office, and were
allowed wages and liveries as Grooms of the Chambers. Among these
actors were included Robert Wilson, described as gifted with "a quick,
delicate, refined, extemporal wit;" and Richard Tarleton, of "a
wondrous, plentiful, pleasant, extemporal wit." From this it would
almost seem that these comedians owed their fame and advancement to
their skill and inventiveness in the matter of gagging. No doubt these
early actors bore some relation to the jesters who were established
members of noble households, and of whom impromptu jokes and
witticisms were looked for upon all occasions. Moreover, at this time,
as Mr. Payne Collier judges, "extemporal plays," in the nature of the
Italian _Commedie al improviso_, were often presented upon the English
stage. The actors were merely furnished with a "plat," or plot of the
performance, and were required to fill in and complete the outline, as
their own ingenuity might suggest. Portions of the entertainments were
simply dumb show and pantomime, but it is clear that spoken dialogue
was also resorted to. In such cases the "extemporal wit," or gagging
of the comic actors, was indispensably necessary. The "comedians of
Ravenna," who were not "tied to any written device," but who,
nevertheless, had "certain grounds or principles of their own," are
mentioned in Whetstone's "Heptameron," 1582, and references to such
performers are also to be found in Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy," and Ben
Jonson's "Case is Altered." In "Antony and Cleopatra" occurs the

                The quick comedians
    Extemporally will stage us and present
    Our Alexandrian revels.

And Mr. Collier conjectures that when Polonius, speaking of the
players, informs Hamlet that, "for the law of writ and the liberty,
these are your only men," he is to be understood as commending their
excellence, both in written performances and in such as left them at
liberty to invent their own discourse.

But however intelligible and excusable its origin, it is certain that
by the time Shakespeare was writing, the "extemporal wit" of the
theatre had come to be a very grave nuisance. There is no need to set
forth here his memorable rebuke of the clowns who demonstrate their
"pitiful ambition" by speaking more than their parts warrant. It is to
be observed, however, that while this charge is levelled only at the
clowns, or comic performers, the faults of the serious players by no
means escape uncriticised. The same speech condemns alike the rant of
the tragedians and the gag of the comedians. Both are regarded as
unworthy means of winning the applause of the "groundlings" in one
case, and the laughter of "barren spectators" in the other. Sad to
say, Hamlet, in his character of reformer of stage abuses, failed to
effect much good. The vices of the Elizabethan theatre are extant, and
thriving in the Victorian. It is even to be feared that the
interpolations of the clowns have sometimes crept into and disfigured
the Shakespearean text, much to the puzzlement of the commentators.
Often as Hamlet's reforming speech has been recited, it has been
generally met and nullified by someone moving "the previous question."
At the same time, while there is an inclination to decry perhaps too
strenuously the condition of the modern stage, it is fair to credit it
with a measure of amendment in regard both to rant and gag. Of late
years rant has certainly declined in public favour, and the
"robustious perriwig-pated fellow" tearing a passion to tatters, to
very rags, is a less familiar spectacle upon our boards than formerly;
albeit, this statement is obviously open to the reply that the system
of "o'er doing Termagant," and "out-Heroding Herod" has ceased to
prevail, inasmuch as the tragedies and vehement plays, which gave it
opportunity and excuse, have vanished from the existing dramatic
repertory. And gag, except perhaps in relation to certain
interpolations, which are founded upon enduring, if absurd, histrionic
traditions, acknowledges stricter limitations than it once did. A
gagging Polonius, Dogberry, Gobbo, or Gravedigger could scarcely
expect much toleration from a modern audience; while it is true
enough, that these famous personages do not often present themselves
upon the scene in these times. As a rule, the gag of the present
period is to be found mainly in those more frivolous and ephemeral
entertainments, which are not much to be damnified by any excesses
with which the comedians may be chargeable.

There is no gainsaying that in all times gag has been indulgently
considered, and even encouraged by the majority of the audience.
Establishing relations of a most intimate kind with his audience, the
comic actor obtains from them absolute licence of speech and conduct.
He becomes their "spoiled child," his excesses are promptly applauded,
and even his offences against good taste are speedily pardoned.

Of early gagging comedians, one of the most noted appears to have been
Will Pinkethman, who flourished under William and Mary, and won
honourable mention from Sir Richard Steele, in "The Tatler." Cibber
describes Pinkethman as an imitator of Leigh, an earlier actor of
superior and more legitimate powers. Pinkethman's inclination for
"gamesome liberties" and "uncommon pleasantries" was of a most
extravagant kind. Davies says of him that he "was in such full
possession of the galleries that he would hold discourse with them for
several minutes." Nor could he be induced to amend his method of
performance. It was in vain the managers threatened to fine him for
his exuberances; he was too surely a public favourite to be severely
treated. At one time he came to a "whimsical agreement" with Wilks,
the actor, who suffered much from his playfellow's eccentricities,
that "whenever he was guilty of corresponding with the gods he should
receive on his back three smart strokes of Bob Wilks's cane." But even
this penalty, it would seem, Wilks was too good-natured to enforce. On
one occasion, however, as Davies relates, Pinkethman so persisted in
his gagging as to incur the displeasure of the audience. The comedy
was Farquhar's "Recruiting Officer;" Wilks played Captain Plume, and
Pinkethman one of the recruits. The captain enlisting him inquired his
name. Instead of giving the proper answer, Pinkethman replied: "Why,
don't you know my name, Bob? I thought every fool knew that." Wilks
angrily whispered to him the name of the recruit, Thomas Appleton.
"Thomas Appleton?" he cried aloud. "No, no, my name's Will
Pinkethman!" Then, addressing himself to the gallery, he said: "Hark
ye, friends; you know my name up there, don't you?" "Yes, Master
Pinkey," was the answer, "we know your name well enough." The house
was now in an uproar. At first the audience enjoyed the folly of
Pinkethman, and the distressed air of Wilks; but soon the joke grew
tiresome, and hisses became distinctly audible. By assuming as
melancholy an expression as he could, and exclaiming with a strong
nasal twang: "Odds, I fear I'm wrong," Pinkethman was enabled to
restore the good-humour of his patrons. It would seem that on other
occasions he was compelled to make some similar apology for his
misdemeanours. "I have often thought," Cibber writes, "that a good
deal of the favour he met with was owing to this seeming humble way of
waiving all pretences to merit, but what the town would please to
allow him." A satiric poem, called "The Players," published in 1733,
contains the following reference to Pinkethman:

    Quit not your theme to win the gaping rout,
    Nor aim at Pinkey's leer with "S'death, I'm out!"
    An arch dull rogue, who lets the business cool,
    To show how nicely he can play the fool,
    Who with buffoonery his dulness clokes,
    Deserves a cat-o'-nine-tails for his jokes.

At this time, Pinkethman had been dead some years, and it is explained
in a note, that no "invidious reflection upon his memory" was
intended, but merely a caution to others, who, less gifted, should
presume to imitate conduct which had not escaped censure even in his
case. With all his irregularities, Pinkethman was accounted a
serviceable actor, and was often entrusted with characters of real
importance, such as Dr. Caius, Feeble, Abel Drugger, Beau Clincher,
Humphrey Gubbin, and Jerry Blackacre.

But an actor who outdid even Pinkethman in impertinence of speech was
John Edwin, a comedian who enjoyed great popularity late in the last
century. A contemporary critic describes him "as one of those
extraordinary productions that would do immortal honour to the sock,
if his extravasations of whim could be kept within bounds, and if the
comicality of his vein could be restrained by good taste." Reynolds,
the dramatist, relates that on one occasion he was sitting in the
front row of the balcony-box at the Haymarket, during the performance
of O'Keeffe's farce of "The Son-in-Law," Parsons being the Cranky and
Edwin the Bowkitt of the night. In the scene of Cranky's refusal to
bestow his daughter upon Bowkitt, on the ground of his being such an
ugly fellow, Edwin coolly advanced to the foot-lights, and said:
"Ugly! Now I submit, to the decision of an enlightened British public,
which is the ugliest fellow of us three; I, old Cranky, or that
gentleman in the front row of the balcony-box?" Here he pointed to
Reynolds, who hastened to abandon his position. Parsons was
exceedingly angry at the interruption, but the audience appear to have
tolerated, and even enjoyed the gag. As Reynolds himself leniently
writes: "Many performers before and since the days of Edwin have
acquired the power, by private winks, irrelevant buffoonery and
dialogue, to make their fellow-players laugh, and thus confound the
audience and mar the scene; Edwin, disdaining this confined and
distracting system, established a sort of entre-nous-ship (if I may
venture to use the expression) with the audience, and made them his
confidants; and though wrong in his principle, yet so neatly and
skilfully did he execute it, that instead of injuring the business of
the stage, he frequently enriched it."

Edwin seems, indeed, to have been an actor of some genius,
notwithstanding his "extravasations of whim," and an habitual
intemperance, which probably hastened the close of his professional
career--for the man was a shameless sot. "I have often seen him,"
writes Boaden, "brought to the stage-door, senseless and motionless,
lying at the bottom of a coach." Yet, if he could but be made to
assume his stage-clothes, and pushed towards the lamps, he would rub
his eyes for a moment, and then consciousness and extraordinary humour
returned to him together, and his acting suffered in no way from the
excesses which had overwhelmed him. Eccentricity was his forte, and it
was usually found necessary to have characters expressly written for
him; but there can be no doubt that he was very highly esteemed by the
playgoers of his time, who viewed his loss to the stage as quite

But of the comedians it may be said, that they not only "gag"
themselves, but they are the cause of "gagging" in others. Their
interpolations are regarded as heirlooms in the Thespian family. It is
the comic actor's constant plea, when charged with adding to some
famous part, that he has only been true to the traditions of previous
performers. One of the most notable instances of established gag is
the burlesque sermon introduced by Mawworm, in the last scene of "The
Hypocrite." This was originated by Mathews, who first undertook the
part at the Lyceum in 1809, and who designed a caricature of an
extravagant preacher of the Whitfield school, known as Daddy Berridge,
whose strange discourses at the Tabernacle in the Tottenham Court Road
had grievously afflicted the actor in his youth. Mawworm's sermon met
with extraordinary success; on some occasions it was even encored, and
the comedy has never since been presented without this supreme effort
of gag. Liston borrowed the address from Mathews, and gained for it so
great an amount of fame, that the real contriver of the interpolation
had reason to complain of being deprived of such credit as was due to
him in the matter. The sermon is certainly irresistibly comical, and a
fair outgrowth of the character of Mawworm; at the same time it must
be observed that Mawworm is himself an excrescence upon the comedy,
having no existence in Cibber's "Non-Juror," upon which "The
Hypocrite" is founded, or in "Tartuffe," from whence Cibber derived
the subject of his play.

In the same way the additions made by the actors to certain of
Sheridan's comedies--such as Moses's redundant iterations of "I'll
take my oath of that!" in "The School for Scandal," and Acres's
misquotation of Sir Lucius's handwriting: "To prevent the trouble that
might arise from our both undressing the same lady," in "The Rivals,"
are gags of such long standing, that they may date almost from the
first production of those works. Sheridan himself supervised the
rehearsals, and took great pains to perfect the representation; but,
with other dramatists, he probably found himself much at the mercy of
the players. He even withheld publication of "The School for Scandal,"
in order to prevent inadequate performance of the comedy; but this
precaution was attended with the worst results. The stage long
suffered from the variety of defective copies of the work that
obtained circulation. The late Mr. John Bernard, the actor, in his
amusing "Retrospections of the Stage," has confessed that, tempted by
an addition of ten shillings a-week to his salary, he undertook to
compile, in a week, an edition of "The School for Scandal" for the
Exeter Theatre, upon the express understanding that the manuscript
should be destroyed at the end of the season. Bernard had three parts
in his possession, for upon various occasions he had appeared as Sir
Peter, as Charles, and as Sir Benjamin. Two members of the Exeter
company were acquainted with the speeches of Old Rowley, Lady Teazle,
and Mrs. Candour, while actors at a distance, upon his request, sent
him by post the parts of Joseph and Sir Oliver. With these materials,
assisted by his general knowledge of the play, obtained from his
having appeared many times in authentic versions of it, the compiler
prepared a fictitious and piratical edition of "The School for
Scandal," which fully served the purpose of the manager, and drew good
houses for the remainder of the season.

Altogether, while few writers have done so much for the stage as
Sheridan, few have met with less reverent treatment at the hands of
the actors. "The Critic" has long been known in the theatre as a
"gag-piece;" that is, a play which the performers consider themselves
entitled to treat with the most merciless licence. In this respect
"The Critic" has followed the fate of an earlier work to which it owes
much of its origin--"The Rehearsal," by the Duke of Buckingham. It is
curious how completely Sheridan's own satire has escaped its due
application. "This is always the way at the theatre," says Puff; "give
these fellows a good thing and they never know when to have done with
it." "The Critic" is not very often played nowadays; but every
occasion of its revival is disfigured by the freedoms and buffoonery
of its representatives. Modern costume is usually worn by Mr. Puff and
his friends; and the anachronism has its excuse, perhaps, in the fact
that the satire of the dramatist is as sound and relevant now as it
was in the last century. And some modification of the original text
might be reasonably permitted. For instance, the reference by name to
the long-since departed actors, King, Dodd, and Palmer, and the once
famous scene-painter, Mr. De Loutherbourg, must necessarily now escape
the comprehension of a general audience. But the idiotic
interpolations, and the gross tomfoolery the actors occasionally
permit themselves in the later scenes of the play, should not be
tolerated by the audience upon any plea or pretext whatever.

One kind of gag is attributable to failure of memory or deficiency of
study on the part of the player. "I haven't got my words; I must gag
it," is a confession not unfrequently to be overheard in the theatre.
Incledon, the singer, who had been in early life a sailor before the
mast, in the royal navy, was notorious for his frequent loss of memory
upon the stage. In his time the word "vamp" seems to have prevailed as
the synonym of gag. A contemporary critic writes of him: "He could
never vamp, to use a theatrical technical which implies the
substitution of your own words and ideas when the author's are
forgotten. Vamping requires some tact, if not talent; and Incledon's
former occupation had imparted to his manners that genuine salt-water
simplicity to which the artifices of acting were insurmountable
difficulties." Incledon had, however, a never-failing resource when
difficulty of this kind occurred to him, and loss of memory, and
therefore of speech, interrupted his performances. He forthwith
commenced a verse of one of his most popular ballads! The amazement of
his fellow-actors at this proceeding was, on its first adoption, very
great indeed. "The truth is, I forgot my part, sir," Incledon frankly
explained to the perplexed manager, "and I could not catch the cue. I
assure you, sir, that my agitation was so great, that I was compelled
to introduce a verse of 'Black-eyed Susan,' in order to gain time and
recover myself." Long afterwards, when the occupants of the green-room
could hear Incledon's exquisite voice upon the stage, they were wont
to ask each other, laughingly: "Is he singing his music, or is he
merely recollecting his words?"

That excellent comedian, the late Drinkwater Meadows, used to relate a
curious gagging experience of his early life as a strolling player. It
was at Warwick, during the race week. He was to play Henry Moreland,
in "The Heir-at-Law," a part he had never previously performed, and of
which, indeed, he knew little or nothing. There was no rehearsal, the
company was "on pleasure bound," and desired to attend the races with
the rest of Warwickshire. No book of the play was obtainable. A study
of the prompt-book had been promised; but the prompter was not to be
found; he was probably at the races, and his book with him. The
representative of Henry Moreland could only consult with the actor who
was to play Steadfast--for upon Steadfast's co-operation Moreland's
scenes chiefly depend. "Don't bother about it," said Steadfast. "Never
mind the book. I'll come down early to the house, and as we're not
wanted till the third act we can easily go over our scenes quietly
together before we go on. We shall be all right, never fear. It's a
race-night; the house will be full and noisy. Little of the play will
be heard, and we need not be over and above particular as to the syls"

But Steadfast came down to the theatre very late, instead of early,
and troubled with a thickness of speech and an unsteadiness of gait
that closely resembled the symptoms of intoxication. "Sober!" he said,
in reply to some insinuation of his comrade, "I'm sober as a judge.
I've been running to get here in time, and that's agitated me. I
shall be all right when I'm on. Take care of yourself, and don't fret
about me."

The curtain was up, and they had to face the foot-lights. Moreland
waited for Steadfast to begin. Steadfast was gazing vacantly about
him, silent save for irrepressible hiccups. The audience grew
impatient, hisses became audible, and an apple or two was hurled upon
the stage. Moreland, who had gathered something of the subject of the
scene, found it absolutely necessary to say something, and began to

"Well, Steadfast" (_aside to him_, "Stand still, can't you?"), "here
we are in England, nay, more, in London, its metropolis, where
industry flourishes and idleness is punished." (A pause for thought
and reply; with little result.) "Proud London, what wealth!" (Another
pause, and a hiccup from Steadfast.) "What constant bustle, what
activity in thy streets!" (No remark could be extracted from
Steadfast. It was necessary to proceed.) "And now, Steadfast, my
inestimable friend, that I may find my father and my Caroline well and
happy, is the dearest, the sole aspiration of my heart!" Steadfast
stared and staggered, then suddenly exclaiming gutturally, "Amen!"
reeled from the stage, quickly followed by Henry Moreland, amid the
derision and hisses of the spectators. "Treat you cruelly!" said
Steadfast, incoherently in the wings. "Nothing of the sort. You quite
confounded me with your correctness. You told me you didn't know your
words, and I'll be hanged if you were not 'letter perfect.' It went
off capitally, my dear boy, so now let's go over our next scene." But
the manager deemed it advisable to omit from the play all further
reference to Moreland and Steadfast.

To performers who gag either wantonly, or by reason of imperfect
recollection of their parts, few things are more distressing than a
knowledge that someone among the audience is in possession of a book
of the play to be represented. Even the conscientious and
thoroughly-prepared actor is apt to be disconcerted when he hears the
flutter of leaves being turned over in the theatre, and discovers that
his speeches are being followed, line for line and word for word, by
critics armed with the author's text. On such occasions his memory is
much inclined to play him false, and a sudden nervousness will often
mar his best efforts. But, to the gagging player, a sense that his
sins and failings are in this way liable to strict note and discovery,
is grievously depressing. Some years ago a strolling company visited
Andover, and courageously undertook to represent an admired comedy,
with which they could boast but the very faintest acquaintance.
Scarcely an actor, indeed, knew a syllable of his part. It was agreed
that gag must be the order of the night, and that the performance must
be "got through" anyhow. But the manager, eyeing and counting his
house through the usual peephole in the curtain, perceived a gentleman
in the boxes holding in his hands a printed copy of the play. The
alarm of the company became extreme. A panic afflicted them, and their
powers of gag were paralysed. They refused to confront the
foot-lights. The audience grew impatient; the fiddlers were weary of
repeating their tunes. Still the curtain did not rise. At length the
manager presented himself with a doleful apologetic face. "Owing to an
unfortunate accident," he said, "the company had left behind them the
prompt-book of the play. The performance they had announced could not,
therefore, be presented; unless," and here the speech was especially
pointed to the gentleman in the boxes, "anyone among the audience, by
a happy chance, happened to have brought to the theatre a copy of the
comedy." The gentleman rose and said his book was much at the service
of the manager, and it was accordingly handed to him. The players
forthwith recovered their spirits; exposure of their deficiencies was
no longer possible; and the performance passed off to the satisfaction
of all concerned.

It has been suggested that gag is leniently, and even favourably
considered by audiences; and it should be added that dramatists often
connive at the interpolations of the theatre. For popular actors
characters are prepared in outline, as it were, with full room for the
embellishments to be added in representation. "Only tell me the
situations; never mind about the 'cackle,'" an established comedian
will observe to his author: "I'll 'fill it out,'" or "I shall be able
to 'jerk it in,' and make something of the part." It is to be feared,
indeed, that gag has secured a hold upon the stage, such as neither
time nor teaching can loosen. More than a century ago, in the
epilogue as supplied to Murphy's comedy, Garrick wrote:

    Ye actors who act what our writers have writ,
    Pray stick to your parts and spare your own wit;
    For when with your own you unbridle your tongue,
    I'll hold ten to one you are "all in the wrong!"

But this, with other cautioning of like effect, has availed but
little. The really popular actor gains a height above the reach of
censure. He has secured a verdict that is scarcely to be impeached or
influenced by exceptional criticism. Still it may be worth while to
urge upon him the importance of moderation, not so much for his own
art's sake--on that head over-indulgence may have made him
obdurate--but in regard to his playfellows of inferior standing. He is
their exemplar; his sins are their excuses; and the licence of one
thus vitiates the general system of representation.

The French stage is far more hedged round with restrictions than is
our own, and cultivates histrionic art with more scrupulous care. In
its better works gag is not tolerated, although free range is accorded
it in productions of the opera bouffe and vaudeville class. Here the
wildest liberty prevails, and the gagging actor is recognised as
exercising his privileges and his wit within lawful bounds. The
Parisian theatres may, indeed, be divided into the establishments
wherein gag is applauded, and those wherein it is abominated. By way
of a concluding note upon the subject, let an authentic story of
successful French gag be briefly narrated.

Potier, the famous comedian, was playing the leading part in a certain
vaudeville, and was required, in the course of the performance, to sit
at the table of a cheap café and consume a bottle of beer. The beer
was brought him by a _figurant_, or mute performer, in the character
of a waiter, charged with the simple duty of drawing the cork from the
bottle and filling the glass of the customer. Potier was struck with
the man's neat performance of his task, and especially with a curious
comical gravity which distinguished his manner, and often bestowed
upon the humble actor an encouraging smile or a nod of approval. The
man at length urged a request that he might, as he poured out the
beer, be permitted to say a few words. Potier sanctioned the gag. It
moved the laughter of the audience. Potier gagged in reply: and there
was more laughter. During later representations the waiter was allowed
further speeches, relieved by the additional gag of Potier, until at
the end of a week it was found that an entirely new scene had been
added to the vaudeville, and eventually the conversation between
Potier and the _garçon_--not a line of which had been invented or
contemplated by the dramatist--became the chief attraction of the
piece. It was the triumph of gag. The _figurant_, from this modest and
accidental beginning of his career as an actor, speedily rose to be
famous. He was afterwards known to the world as ARNAL, one of the most
admirable of Parisian _farçeurs_.



Dr. Barten Holyday, in the notes to his translation of "Juvenal,"
published at Oxford in 1673, describes the Roman plays as being
followed by an exodium "of the nature of a _jig_ after a play, the
more cheerfully to dismiss the spectators"--the word "jig" signifying
in the doctor's time something almost of a _ballet divertissement_,
with an infusion of rhyming songs or speeches delivered by the clown
of the theatre to the accompaniment of pipe and tabor. Jigs of this
kind commonly terminated the performances upon the Elizabethan stage,
which otherwise consisted of one dramatic piece only. Mr. Payne
Collier holds that these supplemental exhibitions probably originated
with, and certainly depended mainly upon, the actors who supported the
characters of fools and clowns in the regular dramatic representations.
He points out that Tarleton, one of Queen Elizabeth's players,
much famed for his comicality, obtained great success by his
efforts in jigs, and that, upon the showing of the tract entitled
Tarleton's "News from Purgatory," jigs usually lasted for an hour. The
precise nature of these entertainments cannot now be ascertained; for
although each jig had what may be called its _libretto_, which was
duly printed and published when the popularity of the work so
required, yet no specimen of any such performance is now extant. The
Stationers' registers, however, contain entries in 1595 of two jigs
described respectively as Phillips's "Jig of the Slippers," and
Kempe's "Jig of the Kitchen-stuff Woman." Other jigs referred to by
contemporary writers are "The Jig of the Ship" and "The Jig of
Garlick." It may be assumed, therefore, that each jig possessed
special characteristics in the nature of distinct plot and characters;
but in what respects "The Jig of the Kitchen-stuff Woman," let us say,
differed from "The Jig of Garlick," or what was the precise story
either was supposed to narrate, we must now be content to leave to the
conjecture of the curious.

Probably dancing, as a dramatic entertainment, first came upon our
stage in the form of these jigs. Of course, as a means of recreation
among all ranks of people, it had thriven since a very remote period.
Into the question of the state of dancing prior to the invention of
any method of denoting by signs or characters the length or duration
of sounds, we need scarcely enter. Doubtless music was felt and
appreciated by a sort of instinct long before it was understood
scientifically, or duly measured out and written down upon a
recognised system. If dancing is to be viewed as dependent upon its
correspondence with mensurable music, it must date simply from the
invention of the Cantus Mensurabilis, attributed by some writers to
Franco, the scholastic of Liége, who flourished in the eleventh
century; and by others to Johannes de Muris, doctor of Sorbonne and a
native of England, at the beginning of the fourteenth century.

There were dances of the court and dances of the people. The Morris
dance, which seems to have been an invention of the Moors, had firmly
established itself in England in the sixteenth century. The country
dance was even of earlier date. The old Roundel or Roundelay has been
described by ancient authorities as an air appropriate to dancing, and
would indicate little more than a circular dance with the hands
joined. Among the nobler and statelier dances in vogue at the court of
the Tudors, were the Pavan (from _pavo_, a peacock), with the Galliard
(a lighter measure, which was probably to the Pavan what in later
years the Gavotte was to the Minuet), the Passamezzo, the Courant, and
the Saraband. Sir John Elyot, who published in 1531 his book called
"The Governor," wherein he avers that dancing by persons of both sexes
is a mystical representation of matrimony, mentions other dances, such
as Bargenettes and Turgyons, concerning which no explanation can be
offered, except perhaps that the former may be derived from Berger,
and be something of a shepherd's dance. There was also an esteemed
dance called the Braule, in which several persons joining hands danced
together in a ring, which was no doubt identical with the Branle or
Brantle mentioned by Mr. Pepys in his description of a grand ball at
Whitehall: "By-and-by comes the king and queen, the duke and duchess,
and all the great ones; and after seating themselves the king takes
out the Duchess of York, and the Duke the Duchess of Buckingham; the
Duke of Monmouth my Lady Castlemaine; and so other lords other ladies;
and they danced the Brantle. After that the king led a lady a single
Coranto; and then the rest of the lords, one after another, other
ladies. Very noble it was and great pleasure to see. Then to country
dances; the king leading the first, which he called for.... The manner
was, when the king dances, all the ladies in the room, and the queen
herself, stand up; and indeed he dances rarely and much better than
the Duke of York."

Dancing, however, had degenerated in King Charles's time. In his
"Table Talk," Selden writes of the matter in very quaint terms: "The
court of England is much altered. At a solemn dancing, first you had
the grave measures, then the Corantoes and the Galliards, and this
kept with ceremony; and at length to Trenchmore and the cushion-dance;
then all the company dances, lord and groom, lady and kitchen-maid, no
distinction. So in our court in Queen Elizabeth's time gravity and
state were kept up. In King James's time things were pretty well. But
in King Charles's time there has been nothing but Trenchmore and the
cushion-dance, _omnium gatherum_, tolly polly, hoite cum toite." The
Trenchmore was a lively dance, mention of which may be found in "The
Pilgrim" and "Island Princess" of Beaumont and Fletcher, and in "The
Rehearsal" of the Duke of Buckingham. The last editor of Selden, it
may be noted, by altering the word to "Frenchmore," has considerably
obscured the author's meaning.

In former times men of the gravest profession did not disdain to
dance. Even the judges, in compliance with ancient custom, long
continued to dance annually on Candlemas Day in the hall of Serjeants'
Inn, Chancery Lane. Lincoln's Inn, too, had its revels--four in each
year--with a master duly elected of the society to direct the
pastimes. Nor were these "exercises of dancing," as Dugdale calls
them, merely tolerated; they were held to be "very necessary, and much
conducing to the making of gentlemen more fit for their books at other
times." Indeed, it appears that, by an order made in James I.'s time,
the junior bar was severely dealt with for declining to dance: "the
under barristers were by decimation put out of commons for example's
sake, because the whole bar offended by not dancing on Candlemas Day
preceding, according to the ancient order of this society, when the
judges were present; with this, that if the like fault were committed
afterwards they should be fined or disbarred."

Gradually jigs disappeared from the stage. Even in 1632, when Shirley
wrote his comedy of "Changes, or Love in a Maze," jigs had been
discontinued at Salisbury Court Theatre, and probably at other private
playhouses. Shirley complains that, instead of a jig at the end, a
dance in the middle of the piece was now required by the spectators.
Possibly that dance of all the _dramatis personæ_ with which so many
of the old comedies conclude is due to the earlier fashion of
terminating theatrical performances by a jig.

With Sir William Davenant as patentee and manager of the Duke's
Theatre, stage dancing and singing acquired a more distinguished
position among theatrical entertainments. It was Davenant's object, by
submitting attractions of this nature to the public, to check the
superiority enjoyed by Killigrew, the patentee of the Theatre Royal,
and the comedians privileged to call themselves "His Majesty's
Servants." Davenant, indeed, first brought upon the English stage what
were then called "dramatic operas," but what we should now rather
designate "spectacles," including Dryden's version of "The Tempest,"
the "Psyche" of Shadwell, and the "Circe" of Charles Davenant, "all
set off," as Cibber writes of them, "with the most expensive
decorations of scenes and habits, with the best voices and dancers."
Sir John Hawkins describes these productions as "musical dramas," or
"tragedies with interludes set to music."

But as yet the ballet, or rather the ballet of action--which may be
defined to be a ballet with a plot or story of some kind told by means
of dancing dumb motions, and musical accompaniments--was not known
upon our stage; and when an entertainment of this kind did make its
appearance it was promptly designated a pantomime, and so has become
confused with the distinct kind of performances still presented under
that name at our larger theatres at Christmas time. "When one company
is too hard for another," writes Cibber, "the lower in reputation has
always been forced to exhibit some new-fangled foppery to draw the
multitude after them;" which is, however, only a way of saying that
managers need the stimulus of opposition to induce them to provide new
entertainments. In 1721 there was great rivalry between Drury
Lane--Cibber being one of its managers--and the theatre then newly
erected in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Of the "new-fangled foppery," which
it now became necessary for the one theatre to resort to as a weapon
of offence against its rival, singing and dancing had been effectual
instances. But singing was not to be thought of under the
circumstances; as Cibber writes: "At the time I am speaking of, our
English music had been so discountenanced since the taste of Italian
operas prevailed, that it was to no purpose to pretend to it. Dancing,
therefore, was now the only weight in the opposite scale, and as the
new theatres sometimes found their account in it, it could not be safe
for us wholly to neglect it. To give even dancing, therefore, some
improvement, and to make it something more than motion without
meaning, the fable of Mars and Venus was formed into a connected
presentation of dances in character, wherein the passions were so
happily expressed, and the whole story so intelligibly told by a mute
narrative of gesture only, that even thinking spectators allowed it
both a pleasing and a rational entertainment." This was certainly a
ballet of action, and it is remarkable that the production involved
but a small outlay; the managers, distrusting its reception, did not
venture "to decorate it with any extraordinary expense of scenes or
habits." Great success, however, attended the performance, and from it
is to be dated the establishment both of ballet and pantomime upon our
stage. "From this original hint, then, but every way unequal to it,
sprang forth that succession of monstrous medleys that have so long
infested the stage, and which arose upon one another alternately at
both houses, outvying in expense, like contending bribes on both sides
at an election, to secure a majority of the multitude." Cibber indeed
waxes very wrath over the matter, and appears to desire that lawful
authority should "interpose to put down these poetical drams, these
gin-shops of the stage, that intoxicate its auditors and dishonour
their understanding with a levity for which I want a name." But
Cibber's anger is in truth very much that of a manager vying with the
liberal outlay of a rival, and in such wise forced to expend large
sums in costly entertainments.

At an earlier date ballet-dancers had been imported from France. Some
time about 1704 the great Mr. Betterton and his company, suffering
from insufficient patronage at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields,
had been reduced to resort to "foreign novelties." Three of the most
famous dancers of the French Opera, L'Abbée, Balon, and Mademoiselle
Subligny, were at several times brought over at extraordinary rates to
revive that sickly appetite which plain sense and nature had satiated.
In Paris, indeed, the ballet was very securely instituted. The
Académie Royale de Musique et de Danse had been founded in 1669, and
from that date the ballet, as an entertainment of dancing only, may be
said to have come into being. There had been earlier ballets, but
these were of the nature of old English masques, and consisted of
songs and spoken dialogues in addition to dances; the term _ballet_,
it need hardly be explained, being derived from the Italian _ballata_,
the parent of our own _ballad_. At first the French Opera or Academy
suffered from the smallness of its troop; vocalists could be obtained
from the church choirs, but for the ballet it was hard to find
recruits; and sometimes young boys were pressed into the service, and
constrained to personate nymphs, dryads, and shepherdesses--"_danseurs_,"
writes a French historian of the Opera, "_qui sous un masque et des
vêtements féminins, les formes arrondies par l'art et le coton,
n'excitaient qu'un enthousiasme modéré_." At court there
was no lack of dancers of the gentler sex, however, and at court
the ballet prospered greatly. A ballet performed in 1681 was at
any rate strongly cast, since there appeared among the dancers Madame
la Dauphine, the Princesse de Conti, and Mdlle. de Nantes, supported
by the Dauphin, the Prince de Conti, and the Duc de Vermandois; but
these distinguished personages probably sang more than they danced.
Louis XIV. frequently figured in ballets, one of his favourite
characters being the Sun in "Flora," said to be the eighteenth ballet
in which he had played a part. Lulli, the composer, director of the
Opera, paid great attention to the ballet, occasionally appearing as a
dancer; as a singer and comic actor he had already acquired fame. To
Lulli has been attributed the introduction of rapid dancing, in
opposition to the solemn and deliberate steps favoured by the court
during the early part of the reign of Louis XIV. It may be added, that
the king held out a measure of encouragement to such of his nobility
and courtiers as were disposed to follow his example and exhibit upon
the scene. "It is our pleasure," he says in the patent granted to the
Abbé Perrin, the first director of the French Opera, 1669, "that all
gentlemen and ladies may sing in the said pieces and representations
of our Royal Academy, without being considered on that account to
derogate from their letters of nobility or from their privileges,
rights, and immunities." The dramatic ballet, or ballet of action, is
said to have been invented by the Duchesse du Maine, whose theatrical
entertainments at Sceaux rivalled the festivities of Versailles, and
obtained the preference of many nobles of the court. The lady,
however, unfortunately meddled with the Spanish conspiracy--she should
have confined herself to the plots of ballets--and forthwith the
establishment at Sceaux was broken up. In this way Mouret, her musical
director, who also composed several operas and ballets for the
Academy, suffered severe loss; eventually he went mad and died in the
lunatic asylum at Chârenton.

Mademoiselle de Subligny came to England armed with letters of
introduction from Thiriot and the Abbé Dubois to John Locke of all
people! Locke probably was not very sympathetic in regard to the
lady's art, yet respect for his friends led him to bestow upon her due
civility and attention; according to Fontenelle, he constituted
himself her _homme d'affaires_. Another dancer, Mademoiselle Sallé,
whose charms and graces Voltaire had celebrated in verse, appeared in
London with letters of introduction from Fontenelle to Montesquieu,
then ambassador at the court of St. James's. It is clear that the
ballet-dancers were becoming personages of real importance.

Mdlle. Sallé, it seems, achieved extraordinary success in the year
1734 at Covent Garden Theatre, which a French journal of that date
describes curiously as the _Théâtre du Commun Jardin_. The lady was an
admirable dancer, and brought with her complete dramatic ballets, the
characters in which were appropriately dressed according to the time
and place of the story they related; for Mdlle. Sallé was a reformer
in the matter of stage costumes. She discarded paniers and hoops and
false hair. As Galatea in a ballet upon the story of Pygmalion, she
wore nothing, we are told, "in addition to her bodice and under
petticoats, but a simple robe of muslin draped after the manner of a
Greek statue." She won great applause, too, by her performance of
Ariadne in a ballet called "Bacchus and Ariadne," the beauty of her
dances, attitudes, and gestures, and her skill in depicting by
movements without words, grief, anger, love, and despair, obtaining
the warmest approval. She was patronised by the king, queen, and the
royal family, and her benefit produced an "overflow" and something
more; tickets were sold at most exorbitant prices, and the people
fought for places both with swords and fists. There are stories, too,
of purses full of gold being flung upon the stage, with showers of
bonbons--not ordinary sugar-plums, but rouleaux of guineas tightly
wrapped up in bank-notes. The dancer is said to have profited by her
benefit to the extent of some £10,000. It must be owned, however, that
the story of Mdlle. Sallé's success is of a very highly-coloured
description, and can only be credited absolutely by persons largely
endowed with credulity.

Satire, of course, found occupation in the successes of the
ballet-dancers. In 1742 Hogarth published his "Charmers of the Age," a
caricature of the aspects and attitudes of M. Desnoyer and the Signora
Barberina, then performing at Drury Lane Theatre. A grotesque air was
given to these artists, popularly regarded as personifications of
grace and elegance, and a measured line was added to the drawing that
their leaps and bounds might be fairly estimated.

It was in France, however, that the _ballerina_ secured her greatest
triumph, and the _ballet d'action_ attained its fullest vitality. The
dancer became a power in the State, influencing princes, ministers,
and people. Poets were her slaves, and oftentimes philosophers were
caught in her toils. From Mdlle. la Fontaine of two centuries since,
"_la première des premières danseuses_," who received the title of "La
Reine de la Danse," there being at the time, however, but three other
professional dancers in Paris, through a long line of most
distinguished artists, the _ballerina_ of to-day may trace her
descent. But now, however, there is pause in her success, a cloud over
her career. Indeed, it must be said, that for a generation almost
there has been no new triumph registered of the ballet and its
artists. Here the "opera-dancers," as they were once called, have
certainly ceased to be. Once standing, as it were, on the tips of
their toes, they supported opera upon their shoulders. But now there
are no dancers at the opera. Euterpe has dispensed with the aid of
Terpsichore; the ballet has fled from the boards of our lyric
theatres. It has been said, indeed, that the _ballet d'action_ has
never been really naturalised in this country; that although it has
thrived for a while, it was but an exotic, needing careful watching
and tending. Still it was for many years a most prosperous
entertainment, especially at our Italian opera-house; and it is to be
noted that its decline has not been confined to this country. Even in
France, its natural home and headquarters, ballet is by no means what
it once was. It lives, perhaps, but in a fallen state. There is no
_danseuse_ now really of the first class. Has the ballet declined on
this account, or is this to be ascribed to the decline of the ballet?
Or can it be that the dances of the streets have overcome and ousted
from their due position the dances of the stage?

After Mdlle. la Fontaine came Mdlles. Roland and Prévost; the famous
Camargo and her rival Sallé, of whom some mention has already been
made; Mdlle. Marie Madeleine Guimard, exquisitely graceful and
fascinating, but of such slender proportions that she obtained the
surname of "_le squelette des Grâces_," while witty but malicious,
perhaps jealous, Sophie Arnould described her as "the spider;"
Mafleuroy, who married Boeldieu, and Mercandotti, who married Mr. Ball
Hughes, otherwise "Golden Ball," the greatest gambler of his time,
which is saying a good deal; Noblet and the Ellslers; Pauline Leroux,
who became the wife of Lafont, the most elegant actor of the modern
theatre; Duvernay and Taglioni--to name no more, for we have now come
to surviving artists--these are among the more famous of the "Reines
de la Danse" who have ruled absolutely at the Académie Royale of Paris
and elsewhere.

In England ballet has enjoyed many triumphs, while it has
nevertheless experienced sundry disasters. There was great trouble,
for instance, at Drury-lane Theatre in 1755, when Mr. Garrick's
"Chinese Festival" with its French dancers was sternly, even savagely,
condemned by the audience. The manager was over-fond of spangles and
spectacles, or inclined to over-estimate his public's regard for such
matters, and a sharp but necessary lesson was read to him upon that
occasion. Then he was very obstinate, and in such wise roused the
British lion inordinately. He would not withdraw the play from his
stage; promptly the audience determined that no stage should be left
him upon which to represent either the "Chinese Festival" or anything
else. Of course he had to yield at last, as managers must when
playgoers are resolute; he had to live by pleasing, not displeasing.
But he did not give way until there had been some six nights of uproar
and riot. In vain did various noble lords and gentlemen, friends of
the management, and supporters of spectacle and the ballet, draw their
swords, endeavouring to awe malcontents, to restore order, and to
defend the theatre from outrage. The mob would have its way. The
benches were torn up, the decorations torn down, chandeliers smashed,
even scenes and properties were ruthlessly destroyed. There was,
indeed, a wild proposition rife at one time to fire the house and burn
it to the ground. Garrick could but strike his flag, and yield up his
"Chinese Festival." Still it was agreed that he had hesitated too
long. The mob therefore repaired to Southampton Street, and smashed
his window-panes, doing other mischief to his property there. He began
even to tremble for his life, and from his friends in power obtained a
guard of soldiery to protect him. Strange to say, on two of the nights
of riot the king was present--a fact that did not in the least hinder
or mitigate the violent demonstrations of the audience.

But it was not so much the ballet that gave offence as the
ballet-dancers whom Garrick had brought from Paris. They were chiefly
Swiss, but the audience believed them to be French, and at that time a
very strong anti-Gallican feeling prevailed in the land. The relations
between England and France were of an unfriendly kind; the two
countries were, indeed, on the eve of war. The French, by their
conduct in America, had incurred the bitterest English enmity. It is
true that Garrick had projected his spectacle months before this
feeling had arisen. He was careful so to inform the public, and
further to state that his ballet-master, M. Noverre, and his sisters
were Swiss and of a Protestant family; his wife and her sister,
Germans; and that of the whole _corps de ballet_, sixty in number,
forty were English. But this availed not. The pit would not regard it,
holding fast to their opinion that no management should bring over
parley-voos and frog-eaters to take the bread out of English mouths.
Peace was at length restored in Drury Lane, and the dancers sent back.
The management lost £4000; Garrick purchasing knowledge of his public
at rather a high rate.

And in England the ballet had other enemies than those who concerned
themselves in regard to the nationality of its professors. It was held
by many to be, if an art at all--why, then, an art of a shocking kind;
they could see nothing in it but gross impropriety and unseemliness.
Now, of course, the ballet has its vulnerable side--it almost needs,
at any rate it has always assumed, a scantier style of dress than is
otherwise in ordinary use. And then the movements of the dancer of
necessity involve greater display of the human form than is required
by the simpler acts of riding, walking, or sitting. In dancing it is
inevitable that there should be swaying and bending of the figure,
possibly waving to and fro of the arms, certainly some standing upon
the toes, and raising of the nether limbs more or less high in the
air. Bereft of these measures dancing could not be; still here were
matters upon which moralists, or persons who so styled themselves,
were able greatly to enlarge, and concerning which Pharisees, who did
not so style themselves, but were such nevertheless, had much to say.
Now just at the close of the last century the world was in very sad
case; society had gone on from bad to worse: low life was of course
lower than it had ever before been known to be, and high life was not
nearly so high as it should have been. There was profligacy in very
exalted places, and, indeed, dissoluteness and immorality everywhere.
Thereupon, in 1798, a certain Bishop of Durham made a speech from his
place in Parliament in regard to the wickedness of the period; and
especially he drew attention to the dancers of the opera-house. The
excuse for the prelate's speech was a divorce bill; for in those days
the peers spiritual and temporal were much occupied in discussing and
passing divorce bills--an employment of which they have only been
deprived during quite recent years. His Grace took occasion to
complain of the frequency of such bills, and, being a true patriot,
charged the French Government with the despatch of agents to this
country especially to corrupt our manners. "He considered it a
consequence of the gross immoralities imported of late years into this
country from France, the Directory of which country, finding that they
were not able to subdue us by their arms, appeared as if they were
determined to gain their ends by destroying our morals; they had sent
over persons to this country who made the most improper exhibitions in
our theatres." Now it was true that the manager of the opera-house at
this time relied greatly upon the attractions of his ballet; operas
and opera-singers having for a while lost favour with the impresario's
subscribers and supporters. A leading dancer at this time, however,
was an Englishwoman--an exception to the rule that makes every
_première danseuse_ of French origin--Miss Rose, reported to be of
plain features, but of exquisite figure, and gifted with singular ease
and grace of movement. It is possible that Miss Rose had adopted a
scantier and lighter method of attire than had prevailed with
preceding dancers. She had been caricatured, yet not very unkindly, by
Gillray, the drawing bearing the motto, "No flower that blows is like
the Rose." The bishop's speech was not without effect. Indeed, he had
announced his intention upon some future day to move an address to the
king praying that all opera-dancers might be ordered out of the
kingdom, as people likely to destroy our morality and religion, and as
very probably in the pay of France. The manager of the opera-house
deemed it advisable to postpone his ballet of "Bacchus and Ariadne"
until new and improved dresses could be prepared for it. Upon the
entertainment being reproduced, it was found that there had been
enlargement and elongation of the skirts of the performers, with the
substitution of inoffensive white silk stockings for the reprehensible
hose of flesh-colour that had originally been assumed. Of course much
talk followed upon this, with great laughter and ridicule; caricatures
of the spiritual peers and the opera-dancers abounded. In a drawing by
Gillray, Miss Rose, with other _danseuses_, is depicted performing
what is called "_La Danse à l'Évêque_;" the ladies have assumed, out
of excessive regard for decorousness and the bishop's arguments, that
apron of black silk which has long been thought peculiar to prelates.
Another satirical illustration bore the title of "Ecclesiastical
Scrutiny; or, The Durham Inquest on Duty." Bishops were represented as
attending in the dressing department of the opera-house; one is seen
to be measuring the dancers' skirts with a tailor's yard; another
arranges their stockings in an ungraceful fashion; while a third
inspects their corsets, decreeing some change in the form of those
articles of attire. The Bishop of Durham was further portrayed in
another broadsheet as armed with his pastoral staff, and sturdily
contesting hand to hand with the Spirit of Evil arrayed in ballet
costume. In short, this subject of the bishops and the ballet-girls
occupied and amused the public very considerably, and doubtless proved
profitable, as an advertisement of his wares, to the manager of the

Still the bishops kept a watchful eye upon the proceedings of the
theatre. In 1805 there is record of a riot at the opera-house, "some
reforming bishops having warned the managers that if the performances
were not regularly brought to a close before twelve o'clock on
Saturday evenings, prosecutions would be commenced." Accordingly, the
performances were shortened by the omission of an act of the ballet of
"Ossian," greatly to the dissatisfaction of the audience, who
assaulted Mr. Kelly, the manager, commenced an attack upon the
chandeliers, benches, musical instruments, &c., and indeed threatened
to demolish the theatre. The curtain had fallen at half-past eleven,
which the audience thought much too early. Of a certain prelate it was
recorded that he frequently attended the Saturday-night performances
at the opera-house, and that upon the approach of midnight he was wont
to stand up in his box holding out his watch at arm's length, by way
of intimating to the spectators that it was time for them to depart
and for the theatre to close. Of course this bishop could hardly have
avoided seeing the ballet; but for whatever distress he may have
endured on that account, a sense of his efforts to benefit his
species, including of course the opera-dancers, no doubt afforded him
a sufficient measure of compensation.



The question of dress has always been of the gravest importance to the
theatrical profession. It was a charge brought against the actors of
Elizabeth's time, that they walked about the town in gaudy and
expensive attire. The author of "The Return from Parnassus," first
published in 1606, but held to have been written at an earlier date,
specially refers to the prosperity, and the consequent arrogance of
the players. He is believed to have had in view Alleyn or even

    Vile world that lifts them up to high degree,
    And treads us down in grovelling misery!
    England affords these glorious vagabonds,
    That carried erst their fardels on their backs,
    Coursers to ride on through the gazing streets,
    Sweeping it in their glaring satin suits,
    And pages to attend their masterships.

But it is clear that these "glorious vagabonds" were regardful that
their dress should be splendid merely. There was no thought then as to
the costumes of the stage being appropriate to the characters
represented, or in harmony with the periods dealt with by the
dramatists. Nor did the spectators find fault with this arrangement.
It did not disturb them in the least to find Brutus and Cassius, for
instance, wearing much the same kind of clothes as Bacon and Raleigh.
And in this way anachronisms of other kinds readily obtained pardon,
if indeed they ever moved attention at all. Certainly the hero of an
early Roman story should not have spoken of gunpowder, much less have
produced a pistol from his belt; but his conduct in this wise became
almost reasonable, seeing that he did not wear a toga, but doublet and
hose--the dress indeed of a gallant of Elizabeth's time.

It is only in quite recent times that the correctness of stage
costumes has undergone systematic consideration, and been treated as a
matter of real urgency, although occasional experiments in the
direction of reform are to be found recorded in early accounts of the
drama. Mr. Pepys describes his visit to the theatre in 1664, to see
"Heraclius, or the Emperor of the East," Carlell's translation of
Corneille, and notes, "the garments like Romans very well ... at the
beginning, at the drawing up of the curtain, there was the finest
scene of the emperor and his people about him, standing in their fixed
and different postures, in their Roman habits, above all that I ever
saw at any of the theatres." But attempts to be accurate in this way
were only of an intermittent kind; any enduring amendment can hardly
be found until we approach a period that is within the recollection of
living playgoers. Mr. Donne, lately the Examiner of Plays, writes in
one of his essays on the drama: "We have seen 'The Rivals' performed
in a sort of chance-medley costume--a century intervening between the
respective attires of Sir Anthony and Captain Absolute;" and he adds,
"we have seen the same comedy dressed with scrupulous attention to the
date of the wigs and hoops; but we doubt whether in any essential
respect that excellent play was a gainer by the increased care and
expenditure of the manager." Sir Walter Scott had previously written:
"We have seen 'Jane Shore' acted with Richard in the old English
cloak, Lord Hastings in a full court dress, with his white rod like a
Lord Chamberlain of the last reign, and Jane Shore and Alicia in stays
and hoops. We have seen Miss Young act Zara, incased in whalebone, to
an Osman dressed properly enough as a Turk, while Nerestan, a
Christian knight, in the time of the Crusades, strutted in the white
uniform of the old French guards!"

Even as late as 1842 a writer in a critical journal, reviewing a
performance of "She Stoops to Conquer" at the Haymarket Theatre,
reminds the representatives of Young Marlow and Hastings that the
costumes they wear being "of the year 1842 accord but ill with those
of 1772, assumed by the other characters." "The effect of the scene is
marred by it," writes the critic. And ten years before Leigh Hunt had
admitted into the columns of his _Tatler_ many letters dwelling upon
the defects of stage costume in regard to incongruousness and general
lack of accuracy. One correspondent complains of a performance of "The
Merry Wives of Windsor" at Covent Garden, in which Bartley had played
Falstaff "in a dress belonging to the age of the first Charles;" Caius
had appeared as "a doctor of the reign of William and Mary, with a
flowing periwig, cocked hat, large cuffs, and ruffles;" while John
Rugby's costume was that "of a countryman servant of the present day."
Another remonstrant describes Kean as dressing Othello "more in the
garb of an Albanian Greek than a Moor; Richard goes through the battle
without armour, while Richmond is armed _cap-à-pie_; and Young plays
Macbeth in a green and gilded velvet jacket, and carries a shield
until he begins to fight, and then throws it away." A third
correspondent draws attention to "The School for Scandal" and Mr.
Farren's performance of Sir Peter Teazle in a costume appropriate to
the date of the comedy, the other players wearing dresses of the
newest vogue. "Even Sir Oliver," it is added, "appeared in a
fashionable modern drab greatcoat." In a note Leigh Hunt records his
opinion that Mr. Farren was right, and that it was "the business of
all the other performers to dress up to his costume, not for him to
_wrong_ himself into theirs," and adds, "there is one way of settling
the matter which puts an end to all questions except that of immediate
convenience and economy; and this is to do as the French do, who
rigidly adhere to the costume of the period in which the scene is
supposed to take place. Something of immediate sympathy is lost,
perhaps, by this system, for we can hardly admire a young beauty so
much in the dress of our grandmothers as in such as we see our own
charmers in; but this defect is compensated by a sense of truth and
propriety, by the very quaintness and novelty of the ancient aspect,
and even by the information it conveys to us."

The condition of the Parisian stage in regard to its improved and
splendid scenery, decorations, and accessories owed much to the
special intervention and patronage of Louis XIV. Sir Walter Scott
ascribes to Voltaire "the sole merit of introducing natural and
correct costumes. Before his time the actors, whether Romans or
Scythians, appeared in the full dress of the French court; and
Augustus himself was represented in a huge full-bottomed wig
surmounted by a crown of laurel." Marmontel, however, claims to have
had some share in this innovation, and also in the reform of the stage
method of declamation, which had previously been of a very pompous
kind. Following his counsels, Mdlle. Clairon, the famous tragic
actress, had ventured to play Roxana, in the Court Theatre at
Versailles, "dressed in the habit of a Sultana, without hoop, her arms
half naked, and in the truth of Oriental costume." With this attire
she adopted a simpler kind of elocution. Her success was most
complete. Marmontel was profuse in his congratulations. "But it will
ruin me," said the actress. "Natural declamation requires correctness
of costume. My wardrobe is from this moment useless to me; I lose
twelve hundred guineas' worth of dresses! However, the sacrifice is
made. Within a week you shall see me play Electra after nature, as I
have just played Roxana." Marmontel writes: "From that time all the
actors were obliged to abandon their fringed gloves, their voluminous
wigs, their feathered hats, and all the fantastic paraphernalia that
had so long shocked the sight of all men of taste. Lekain himself
followed the example of Mdlle. Clairon, and, from that moment, their
talents thus perfected, excited mutual emulation and were worthy
rivals of each other."

Upon the English stage reform in this matter was certainly a matter of
slow growth. A German gentleman, Christian Augustus Gottlieb Goede by
name, who published, in 1821, a long account of a visit he had
recently made to England, expresses in strong terms his opinions on
certain peculiarities of its theatre. "You will never behold," he
writes, "foreign actors dressed in such an absurd style as upon the
London stage. The English, of all other nations the most superstitious
worshippers of fashion, are, nevertheless, accustomed to manifest a
strange indulgence for the incivilities which this goddess encounters
from their performers. I have seen Mr. Cooke personating the character
of Sir Pertinax McSycophant in 'The Man of the World,' in a buff coat
of antique cut, and an embroidered waistcoat which might have figured
in the court of Charles II.; though this play is of modern date and
the actor must of course have been familiar with the current costume.
In 'The Way to Keep Him,' Mr. C. Kemble acted the part of Sir
Brilliant Fashion, a name which ought to have suggested to him a
proper style of dress, in a frock absolutely threadbare, an obsolete
doublet, long pantaloons, a prodigious watch-chain of steel, and a
huge _incroyable_ under his arm. This last article, indeed, was an
appendage of 1802, but all the rest presented a genuine portrait of an
indigent and coxcombical journeyman tailor. He must have known that
pantaloons and an _incroyable_ rumpled and folded together are
incongruous articles of apparel--that no gentleman, much less Sir
Brilliant Fashion, would make his appearance in a threadbare coat; and
that steel watch-chains, as the chronicles of the Birmingham
manufactories plainly evince, have been out of date these fourscore
years. Neither would he, I am perfectly convinced, parade in such a
costume off the boards of the theatre. Why then should he choose to
exhibit such a whimsical figure upon them? May I venture to offer my
own conjecture on the subject? The real cause probably is that an
absurd costume is perfectly fashionable upon the English stage!"

In reply to these and similar strictures there is nothing much to be
said, unless it be that actors and audience alike were content with
things as they were, and that now and then reforms had been attempted,
without however resulting in any particular success. Garrick had
rendered the theatre invaluable services both as actor and as
stage-manager, but he had been unable to effect any very beneficial
change in the matter of dress. Indeed, it seems probable that his
attempt to appear as Othello had failed chiefly because he had
followed Foote's example and attired the character after a Moorish
fashion, discarding the modern military uniforms in which Quin and
Barry had been wont to play the part. The actor's short stature, black
face, and Oriental dress had reminded the audience of the turbaned
negro pages in attendance upon ladies of quality at that period:
"Pompey with the teakettle," as Quin had said, having possibly a plate
of Hogarth's present in his mind; and the innovation, which was
certainly commendable enough, was unfavourably received, even to
incurring some contempt. Garrick's dress as Hotspur, "a laced frock
and a Ramilies wig," was objected to, not for the good reason that it
was inappropriate, but on the strange ground that it was "too
insignificant for the character." A critic writing in 1759, while
timidly advocating the amendment of stage dress, proceeds to doubt
whether the reform would be "well received by audiences who have been
so long habituated to such glaring impropriety and negligence in the
other direction." Clearly alteration was a matter of some difficulty,
and not to be lightly undertaken.

It is well known that Garrick, in the part of Macbeth, wore a court
suit of scarlet and gold lace, with, in the latter scenes of the
tragedy, "a wig," as Lee Lewes the actor says in his Memoirs, "as
large as any now worn by the gravest of our Barons of the
Exchequer"--a similar costume being adopted by other Macbeths of that
time--Smith and Barry for instance. When the veteran actor Macklin
first played Macbeth in 1774, however, he assumed a "Caledonian
habit," and although it is said the audience, when they saw "a clumsy
old man, who looked more like a Scotch piper than a general and a
prince of the blood, stumping down the stage at the head of an army,
were generally inclined to laugh," still the attempt at reform won
considerable approbation. At that time it was held to be
unquestionable that the correct costume of Macbeth should be that of
the Highlander of the snuff-shop; but in later days it was discovered
that even the tartan was an anachronism in such case, and that Macbeth
and his associates must be clad in stripes, or plain colours. Even the
bonnet with the eagle's feather, which Sir Walter Scott induced Kemble
to substitute for his "shuttlecock" headdress of ostrich plumes, was
held to be inadmissible: the Macbeth of the antiquaries wore a conical
iron helmet, and was otherwise arrayed in barbaric armour. But when
Garrick first played Macbeth there were good reasons why the reform to
be introduced by Macklin at a later date could not be attempted. Mr.
Jackson, the actor from Edinburgh, who wrote a history of the Scottish
stage, records that, being engaged at Drury Lane, he had resolved to
make his first appearance in the part of Young Norval, in the tragedy
of "Douglas." He writes: "I had provided for the purpose, before I
left Edinburgh, a Highland dress, accoutred _cap-à-pie_ with a
broadsword, shield, and dirk, found upon the field of Culloden. But
here, as usual, fresh impediment arose Lord Bute's administration,
from causes unnecessary here to enter upon, was become so unpleasing
to the multitude, that anything confessedly Scotch awakened the embers
of discussion, and fed the flame of party. Mr. Garrick therefore put a
direct negative at once upon my appearance in 'Douglas;' 'Oroonoko'
was substituted in its place; for even to have performed the play of
'Douglas' would have been hazardous, and to have exhibited the
Highland dress upon the stage, imprudence in the extreme. Could I have
supposed, at that period," asks Mr. Jackson--his book bears date
1793--"that I should live to see the tartan plaid universally worn in
the politest circles, and its colours the predominating fashion among
all ranks of the people in the metropolis?" What with the
predisposition of the audience in favour of the conventional court
suit, and afterwards their prejudice against the Scotch, on account of
the '45 and Lord Bute, Garrick could hardly have assumed tartan in
"Macbeth." A picture by Dawes represents him in the battle-scenes of
the play as wearing a sort of Spanish dress--slashed trunks, a
breastplate, and a high-crowned hat!

Macbeth, indeed, was never "dressed" agreeably to the taste of
antiquarian critics, until the ornate revivals of the tragedy by Mr.
Phelps, at Sadler's Wells, in 1847, and by Mr. Charles Kean, at the
Princess's Theatre, some five years later. The costumes were of the
eleventh century on each of these occasions, Mr. Phelps's version of
the play being so strictly textual, that the musical embellishments,
usually attributed to Locke, but in truth supplied by Leveridge, were
discarded for the first time for very many years. Lady Macduff was
restored to the list of _dramatis personæ_, from which she had so long
been banished, and the old stage direction in the last scene--"enter
Macduff with Macbeth's head upon a pole," was implicitly followed. But
these revivals were a consequence of earlier reproductions of
Shakespeare, with rigid regard to accuracy of costume, and general
completeness of decoration. John Kemble had taken certain important
steps in this direction, and his example had been bettered by his
brother Charles, under whose management of Covent Garden, "King John"
was produced, the costumes being supervised by Mr. Planché, and every
detail of the representation receiving most attentive study. Great
success attended this experiment, although, in the first instance,
there had prevailed a strong inclination to deride as "stewpans" the
flat-topped helmets worn by King John and his barons. After this,
accuracy of costume, especially in relation to the plays of
Shakespeare, became the favourite pursuit of managers. Mr. Macready
ventured upon various revivals, archaic and decorative, at Covent
Garden and Drury Lane; Mr. Phelps followed suit at Sadler's Wells, and
Mr. Charles Kean at the Princess's, until it seemed that correctness
of attire, and splendour of scenery and appointments, could no further
be carried; indeed, alarm arose lest the drama should perish
altogether under the weight of upholstery and wardrobe it was doomed
to bear. Already the art of acting, in its more heroic aspects, had
undergone decline; there was danger of the player sinking to the level
of a mere dummy or lay-figure for the exhibition of costly raiment.

Still, these luxurious illustrated editions of Shakespeare were
attractive and popular, although it is probable that the audience
esteemed them less for their archæological merits than on account of
their charms as spectacles. Indeed, few in the theatre could really be
supposed to prize the cut of a tunic, or the shape of a headdress, or
to possess such minute information as enabled them to appraise the
worth, in that respect, of the entertainment set before them. However,
pages from the history of costume were displayed, indisputable in
their correctness, and those who listed might certainly gather
instruction. Here was to be seen King John in his habit as he lived;
here appeared the second and third Richards, King Henry, Queen
Katherine, and Wolsey; now was presented London, with its inhabitants
in the Middle Ages; now, the Venice of Shylock; and, anon, the
Bithynia of the days of King Leontes. The spectators applauded the
finery and the skill of the embellishments; and their favourable
verdict upon these counts carried with it, presumably, approval of the
players, and, perhaps, a measure of homage to Shakespeare.

The passion for extreme decoration, in relation both to scenery and
dresses, has not known abatement of late years, though it has sought
other subjects than those supplied by Shakespeare--most unwittingly;
for never could the poet have even dreamed of such a thing as "a
correct and superb" revival. But the question, as to the benefit done
to histrionic art by these representations, remains much where it
was. To revert to the shortcomings of the Elizabethan stage would be,
of course, impossible; the imaginations of the audience would now
steadily refuse to be taxed to meet the absence of scenery, the
incongruity of costumes, and the other deficiencies of the early
theatre. Some degree of accuracy our modern playgoers would demand, if
they disdained or disregarded minute correctness. Certainly, there
would be dissatisfaction if a player, assuming the part of King Henry
VIII., for instance, neglected to present some resemblance to the
familiar portraits of the king by Holbein. Yet the same audience would
be wholly undisturbed by anachronisms touching the introduction of
silken stockings, or velvet robes, the pattern of plate armour, or the
fashion of weapons. After all, what is chiefly needed to preserve
theatrical illusion is a certain harmony of arrangement, which shall
be so undemonstratively complete as to escape consideration; no false
notes must be struck to divert attention from the designs of the
dramatist and from his interpreters, the players; and to these the
help derived from scenery and dresses should always be subordinated.
Yet, when has the theatre been thus ordered, or have audiences been so
disciplined? Beaumont, probably, had good reason for writing to
Fletcher, concerning a performance of his "Faithful Shepherdess"--

    Nor want they those who as the boy doth dance
    Between the acts, will censure the whole play;
    Some like if the wax lights be new that day;
    But multitudes there are whose judgment goes
    Headlong according to the actors' clothes.

The playgoers of Garrick's time, and long afterwards, were habituated
to the defective system of theatrical costume--had grown up with it.
To them it was part of the stage as they had always known it, and they
saw no reason for fault-finding. And it is conceivable that many plays
were little affected by the circumstance that the actors wore court
suits. It was but a shifting of the period of the story represented, a
change of venue; and Romeo, in hair-powder, interested just as much as
though he had assumed an auburn wig. The characters were, doubtless,
very well played, and the actors appeared, at any rate, as "persons of
quality." In historical plays one would think the objection to
anachronism much more obvious; for there distinct events and
personages and settled dates were dealt with. But there was an
understanding that stage costume was purely a conventional matter--and
so came to be tolerated most heterogeneous dressing: the mixing
together of the clothes of almost all centuries and all countries, in
a haphazard way, just as they might be discovered heaped up in a
theatrical wardrobe. It was not a case of simple anachronism; it was
compound and conflicting. Still, little objection was offered.

And even a critic above quoted, writing in 1759, and proposing greater
accuracy in the costumes of historical plays, refrains from suggesting
that comedy should be as strictly treated. He even advances the
opinion that the system of dress in vogue at the date of the play's
production should be disregarded according to "the fluctuations of
fashion." "What should we think," he demanded, "of a Lord Foppington
now dressed with a large full-bottomed wig, laced cravat, buttons as
large as apples, or a Millament with a headdress four storeys high?"
And there is something to be said for this view. The writer of comedy
pictures manners, and these do not change immediately. His portraits
remain recognisable for a generation, probably. Lord Foppington had
descendants, and his likeness, with certain changes of dress, might
fairly pass for theirs for some time. But, of course, the day must
arrive when the comedy loses value as a reflection of manners; it is
interesting as a transcript of the past, but not of the present. It is
doubtless difficult to fix this date with preciseness; but when that
has been accomplished the opportunity of the antiquarian costumier has

Macklin, who reformed the costume of Macbeth, also, it should be
recorded, was the first actor who "dressed Iago properly." It seems
that formerly the part was so attired, or "made up," that Iago's evil
nature was "known at first sight; but it is unnatural to suppose that
an artful villain like him would choose a dress which would stigmatise
him to everyone. I think," adds the critic, "that as Cassio and he
belong to one regiment they should both retain the same regimentals."
By way of final note on the subject is subjoined the opinion of the
author of "Vivian Grey," recorded in that work touching the dress that
should be worn by Othello. "In England we are accustomed to deck this
adventurous Moor in the costume of his native country--but is this
correct? The Grand Duke of Reisenberg thought not. Othello was an
adventurer; at an early age he entered, as many foreigners did, into
the service of Venice. In that service he rose to the highest
dignities--became general of her armies and of her fleets; and finally
the viceroy of her favourite kingdom. Is it natural to suppose that
such a man should have retained, during his successful career, the
manners and dress of his original country? Ought we not rather to
admit that, had he done so, his career would in fact not have been
successful? In all probability he imitated to affectation the manners
of the country which he had adopted. It is not probable that in such,
or in any age, the turbaned Moor would have been treated with great
deference by the common Christian soldier of Venice--or, indeed, that
the scandal of a heathen leading the armies of one of the most
powerful of European states, would have been tolerated for an instant
by indignant Christendom.... Such were the sentiments of the Grand
Duke of Reisenberg on this subject, a subject interesting to
Englishmen; and I confess I think they are worthy of attention. In
accordance with his opinion, the actor who performed Othello appeared
in the full dress of a Venetian magnifico of the Middle Ages: a fit
companion for Cornaro, or Grimani, or Barberigo, or Foscari."



What is called the "legitimate drama" has always found in pantomime
just such a rival and a relative as Gloucester's lawfully-begotten son
Edgar was troubled with in the person of his base-born brother Edmund.
The authentic professor of histrionic art may even have been addressed
occasionally by his illicit opponent in something like Edmund's very

                     Why bastard? wherefore base?
    When my dimensions are as well compact,
    My mind as generous and my shape as true,
    As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
    With base? with baseness? with bastardy? base, base?
    Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land;
    Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
    As to the legitimate: fine word "legitimate."

The antagonism between the two forms of entertainment is by no means
of to-day merely. Shakespeare noted with an air of regret that
"inexplicable dumb shows and noise" enjoyed public admiration in his
day, and, centuries before, the audiences of the ancient actors
underwent reduction by reason of the rival performances of the
dancers, mimes, and mountebanks of the period. The Roman people began
in time to care less for the comedians than for the mimes. Some of
these had the art to represent an entire play, such as the "Hercules
Furens," to the delight and astonishment of the spectators. Augustus
is said to have reconciled the Romans to many severe imposts by
recalling their favourite mime and dancer, Pylades, who had been
banished for pointing with his finger at a spectator who had offended
him. The "dumb shows" referred to by Hamlet, however, were not so much
distinct entertainments as excrescences upon the regular performances
of the theatre, interpolations to win the applause of the groundlings.
Pantomime proper was a development of ballet; the result of an
endeavour to connect one dance with another by means of a slight
string of story. In England systematised entertainments of dancing and
singing were brought upon the English stage by Davenant, "to check,"
we are told, "the superiority enjoyed by the royal comedians in their
exhibition of the regular drama." English singing, however, had
declined in public favour when the taste for Italian opera arose here
about the close of the seventeenth century, and dancing became then
the only feasible counter-attraction to the regular drama. The first
ballets were produced at small cost; but by-and-by the managers
increased more and more their expenditure on account of the dancers,
until the rival theatres were compared to candidates at an election,
competing in bribery to secure "a majority of the multitude." Cibber,
while defending himself against Pope's attack upon him in "The
Dunciad," admitted that he had not virtue enough to starve by opposing
the public, and pleaded guilty to the charge of having as a manager
produced very costly ballets and spectacles. At the same time he
condemned the taste of the vulgar, avowed himself as really on the
side of truth and justice, and compared himself to Henry IV. of France
changing his religion in compliance with the wishes of his people!

Hitherto the ballets had dealt exclusively with mythological subjects,
and nothing of the Italian element comprised in modern pantomime had
been apparent in our stage performances. It is probable that even upon
their first introduction to our theatre the real significance of the
characters of ancient Italian comedy was never wholly comprehended by
the audience. Few could have then cared to learn that types of
national or provincial peculiarity, representatives of Venice,
Bologna, Naples, and Bergamo, respectively, were intended by the
characters of Pantaloon, the Doctor, Scapin, and Harlequin. Yet, in
the first instance, the old Italian comedy was brought upon the
English stage with some regard for its original integrity, and the
characters were personated by regular actors rather than by mimes. So
far back as 1687 Mrs. Behn's three-act farce of "The Emperor of the
Moon" was produced, and in this appeared the characters of Harlequin
and Scaramouch, who play off many tricks and antics, while there are
parts in the play corresponding with the pantaloon, the lover, and the
columbine of more modern pantomime. But at this date, and for some
years, harlequin was not merely the sentimentalist, attitudiniser, and
dancer he has since become. He was true to his Italian origin, and
very much the kind of harlequin encountered on his native soil and
described by Addison: "Harlequin's part is made up of blunders and
absurdities; he is to mistake one name for another, to forget his
errands, and to run his head against every post that appears in his
way." Marmontel describing, however, the harlequin of the French
stage, writes: "His character is a mixture of ignorance, simplicity,
cleverness, stupidity, and grace; he is a kind of sketch of a man, a
tall child, yet with gleams of reason and wit, and all whose mistakes
and follies have something arch about them. The true mode of
representing him is to give him suppleness, agility, the playfulness
of a kitten, with a certain grossness of appearance, which renders his
conduct more absurd; his part is that of a patient, faithful valet,
always in love, always in hot water, either on his master's or his own
account, troubled and consoled as easily as a child, and whose grief
is as entertaining as his joy."

It will be observed that the character thus described more nearly
resembles the modern clown than the modern harlequin, and the early
harlequins of the English stage were therefore naturally played by the
low comedians of the time. The harlequin of Mrs. Behn's farce was
personated by an actor named Jevon, who was followed in the part by
Pinkethman, a comedian much commended by Steele in "The Tatler."
Pinkethman was found so amusing in his motley coat, and what Cibber
calls "that useless unmeaning mask of a black cat," that certain of
his admirers fancied that much of the drollery and spirit of his
grimace must be lost by the concealment of his face. Yielding to their
request, therefore, he played one night without his mask. But the
result was disappointing. "Pinkethman," it is recorded, "could not
take to himself the shame of the character without being concealed; he
was no more harlequin; his humour was quite disconcerted; his
conscience could not with the same effrontery declare against nature
without the cover of that unchanging face. Without that armour his
courage could not come up to the bold strokes that were necessary to
get the better of common-sense."

Early in the eighteenth century the characters of the Italian comedy
were introduced into ballets. Harlequin ceased to speak, and assumed
by degrees a more romantic, a less comic air, and the peculiarities of
modern pantomime were gradually approached. Rich, the manager of the
theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields and afterwards of Covent Garden--the
"immortal Rich" of "The Dunciad"--became famous for his pantomimes,
and under the name of Lun acquired great distinction as a harlequin.
Pope handles severely the taste of the town in regard to pantomimes,
and the excessive expenditure incurred on account of them. "Persons of
the first quality in England" were accused of attending at these
representations twenty and thirty times in a season. The line "Lo! one
vast egg produces human race," had reference to the trick, introduced
by Rich, of hatching harlequin out of a large egg. This was regarded
as a masterpiece of dumb show, and is described in glowing terms by a
contemporary writer. "From the first clipping of the egg, his
receiving motion, his feeling the ground, his standing upright, to his
quick harlequin trip round the empty shell, through the whole
progression, every limb had its tongue and every motion a voice." Rich
was also famed for his "catching a butterfly" and his "statue scene;"
his "taking leave of columbine" was described as "graceful and
affecting;" his trick of scratching his ear with his foot like a dog
was greatly admired; while in a certain dance he was said to execute
300 steps in a rapid advance of three yards only. A writer in _The
World_ (1753) ironically recommended the managers to dispense entirely
with tragedy and comedy, and to entertain the town solely with
pantomime, people of taste and fashion having given sufficient proof
that they thought it the highest entertainment the stage was capable
of affording--"the most innocent we are sure it is, for where nothing
is said and nothing meant very little harm can be done." Garrick, it
was fancied, might start a few objections to this proposal; "but," it
was added, "with those universal talents which he so happily
possesses, it is not to be doubted but he will in time be able to
handle the wooden sword with as much dignity and dexterity as his
brother Lun."

Possibly harlequin became a mute, in the first instance, to suit the
limited capacity in the matter of elocution of some such performer as
Rich; or the original dumbness of the harlequinade figures may be
attributable to the strictness with which of old the theatres,
unprotected by patents, were prohibited from giving _spoken_
entertainments. What were then called the "burletta houses" were
permitted performances of dancing, singing, tumbling, juggling--anything,
indeed, but _speech_ unaccompanied by music. The popularity
of these performances was beyond question, however, and, in time,
the mute drove the speaking harlequin from the stage: the great
theatres probably copying the form of pantomimes of the minor houses,
as they were by-and-by also induced to follow the smaller stages in
the matter of their melodramas and burlettas.

The comic "openings" known to modern times had no place in Rich's
pantomimes. These were divided into two parts, the first being devoted
to scenic surprises and magical transformations of a serious nature,
and the last to all kinds of comic antics, tumbling and dancing. No
allusions to passing events or the follies of the day were, however,

Harlequin lost his place as the chief member of the pantomime troop,
when the part of clown was entrusted to the famous Grimaldi, "the
Garrick of clowns," as Theodore Hook called him. This great comic
artist devised the eccentric costume still worn by clowns--the
original whiteness of the Pierrot's dress being used as a groundwork
upon which to paint variegated spots, stars, and patches; and nearly
all the "comic business" of modern harlequinades is of his invention.
The present dress of the harlequin dates from the beginning of the
century only. Until then the costume had been the loosely fitting
parti-coloured jacket and trousers to be seen worn by the figures in
Watteau's masquerade subjects. In the pantomime of "Harlequin Amulet;
or, The Magic of Mona," produced at Drury Lane in 1800, Mr. James
Byrne, the ballet-master, the father of the late Mr. Oscar Byrne,
appeared as harlequin in "a white silk shape, fitting without a
wrinkle," into which the coloured silk patches were woven, the whole
being profusely covered with spangles, and presenting a very sparkling
appearance. The innovation was not resisted, but was greatly
applauded, and Mr. Byrne's improved attire is worn by all modern

Some eighty years ago John Kemble, addressing his scene-painter in
reference to a forthcoming pantomime, wrote: "It must be _very short,
very laughable_, and _very cheap_." If the great manager-actor's
requirements were fairly met, it is certain that the entertainment in
question was of a kind very different to the pantomime of our day--a
production that is invariably very long, rarely laughable, and always
of exceeding costliness. Leigh Hunt complained in 1831 that pantomimes
were not what they had been, and that the opening, "which used to form
merely a brief excuse for putting the harlequinade in motion," had
come to be a considerable part of the performance. In modern pantomime
it may be said that the opening is everything, and that the
harlequinade is deferred as long as possible. "Now the fun begins,"
used to be the old formula of the playbills announcing the
commencement of the harlequinade, or what is still known in the
language of the theatre as the "comic business." Perhaps experience
proved that in point of fact "the fun" did not set in at the time
stated; at any rate the appearance of harlequin and clown is now
regarded by many of the spectators as a signal for the certain
commencement of dreariness, and as a notice to quit their seats. The
pantomime Kemble had in contemplation, however, was of the fashion
Leigh Hunt looked back upon regretfully. Harlequin was to enter almost
in the first scene. "I have hit on nothing I can think of better,"
writes Kemble, "than the story of King Arthur and Merlin, and the
Saxon Wizards. The pantomime might open with the Saxon witches
lamenting Merlin's power over them, and forming an incantation by
which they create a harlequin, who is supposed to be able to
counteract Merlin in all his designs for the good of King Arthur. If
the Saxons came on in a dreadful storm, as they proceeded in their
magical rites, the sky might brighten and a rainbow sweep across the
horizon, which, when the ceremonies are completed, should contract
itself from either end and form the figure of harlequin in the
heavens; the wizards may fetch him down how they will, and the sooner
he is set to work the better. If this idea for producing a harlequin
is not new do not adopt it."

The main difficulty of pantomime-writers at this time seems to have
been the contriving of some new method of bringing harlequin upon the
scene. Now he was conjured up from a well, now from a lake, out of a
bower, a furnace, &c.; but it was always held desirable to introduce
him to the spectators as early as might be. In Tom Dibdin's pantomime
of "Harlequin in his Element; or, Fire, Water, Earth, and Air,"
produced at Covent Garden in 1807, the first scene represents "a
beautiful garden, with terraces, arcades, fountains," &c. The curtain
"rises to a soft symphony." Aurino, the Genius of Air, descends on a
light cloud; Aquina, the Spirit of Water, rises from a fountain;
Terrena, the Spirit of Earth, springs up a trap; and Ignoso, the
Genius of Fire, descends amid thunder from the skies. These characters
interchange a little rhymed dialogue, and discuss which of them is the
most powerful. Ignoso is very angry, and threatens his associates.
Terrena demands:

    Fire, why so hot? Your bolts distress not me,
      But injure the fair mistress of these bowers,
    Whose sordid guardian would her husband be,
    For lucre, not for love.
      Rather than quarrel, let us use our powers,
    And gift with magic aid some active sprite,
    To foil the guardian and the girl to right.

The proposition is agreed to, and thereupon, according to stage
direction, "Harlequin is produced from a bed of parti-coloured
flowers, and the magic sword is given to him." He is addressed by each
of the spirits in turn. Then we read: "Ignoso sinks. Aquina strikes
the fountains; they begin playing. Terrena strikes the ground; a bed
of roses appears. Harlequin surveys everything, and runs round the
stage. Earth sinks in the bed of roses, and Water in the fountains.
Air ascends in the car. Columbine enters dancing; is amazed at the
sight of Harlequin, who retires from her with equal surprise; they
follow each other round the fountain in a _pas de deux_. They are
surprised by the entrance of Columbine's guardian, who comes in
preceded by servants in rich liveries. Clown, as his running footman,
enters with a lap-dog. Old man takes snuff; views himself in a
pocket-glass. Clown imitates him; old man sees Harlequin and
Columbine, and pursues them round the fountains, but the lovers go
off, followed by Sir Amoroso and servants." The lovers are pursued
through some sixteen scenes, till the fairies unite them in the Temple
of the Elements. At this time, it is to be noted, the last scene held
that place as a spectacle which is now enjoyed by the transformation
scene. Throughout the pantomime the relations of Clown and Pantaloon,
or Sir Amoroso, the guardian (he is called by these titles
indifferently), as master and servant are carefully preserved.

Although in "Harlequin in his Element" there appears little answering
to the modern "opening," and no "transformation" of the characters,
yet both these peculiarities are to be discovered in the famous
pantomime of "Mother Goose," which was presented to the town a year
sooner, and was the work of the same author. In "Mother Goose" there
are four opening scenes and fifteen of harlequinade--the pantomime of
to-day generally reversing this arrangement of figures. Colin, a young
peasant, is changed to Harlequin; Collinette, his mistress, to
Columbine; Squire Bugle to Clown; and Avaro, an old miser, to
Pantaloon. In the harlequinade are scenes of Vauxhall Gardens, and the
exterior of St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street, with a crowd assembled
to see the figures strike the bell (these figures were subsequently
removed to the Marquis of Hertford's villa, in the Regent's Park), a
grocer's shop and post-office, an inn, a farm-yard, &c.; while many of
the tricks are identical with those still delighting holiday
audiences; but the allusions to political events and current topics,
so dear to modern purveyors of burlesque and pantomime, have no place
in the entertainment. The doggerel and songs of the opening are
without puns or pretensions of a comic kind, and must certainly be
described as rather dull reading.

Without doubt the modern pantomime opening owes much of its form to
modern burlesque and extravaganza, of which the late Mr. Planché may
be regarded as the inventor. Mr. Planché's first burlesque was
produced at Drury Lane in 1818, and was called "Amoroso, King of
Little Britain." "The _author_!" wrote a fierce critic in
"Blackwood"--"but even the shoeblacks of Paris call themselves
_marchands de cirage_!" Mr. Planché had compensation, however. His
burlesque was quoted in a leading article in _The Times_; the King of
Little Britain's address to his courtiers, "My lords and
gentlemen--get out!" was alluded to in relation to a royal speech
dissolving Parliament. "Amoroso" was a following of "Bombastes
Furioso." But, by-and-by, Mr. Planché was to proceed to "Pandora,"
"Olympic Revels," "Riquet with the Tuft," and other productions, the
manner and character of which have become identified with his name.
Gradually he created a school of burlesque-writers indeed; but his
scholars at last rebelled against him and "barred him out," a fate to
which schoolmasters have been often liable. Still burlesque of the
worthy Planché form, and of the spuriously imitative kind, which
copied, and at the same time degraded him, grew and throve, and at
last invaded the domains of pantomime. "Openings" fell into the hands
of burlesque-writers, their share in the pantomime work ceasing with
the transformation scene; punning rhymes and parodies, and comic
dances, delayed the entrance of clown and harlequin, till at last
their significance and occupation seem almost to have gone from them.
The old language of gesture, with perhaps the occasional resort to a
placard to supplement and interpret the "dumb motions" of the
performers (a concession to, or an evasion of the old prohibition of
speech in the "burletta houses"), vanished from the stage. The
harlequinade characters ceased to take part in the opening, and that
joy to youthful cunning of detecting the players of the later scenes
in the disguises of their earlier presentment--harlequin, by the
accidental revelation of parti-colour and spangles, and clown by the
chance display of his motley trunk and hose--was gone for ever. Smart
young ladies in the blonde wigs, the very curt tunics, the fleshings
and the high heels of burlesque, appeared in lieu of these; and the
spectacle of the characters in the opening loosening tapes and easing
buttons in good time to obey the behest of the chief fairy, and
transform themselves for harlequinade purposes, became an obsolete and
withdrawn delight.

Yet what were called "speaking pantomimes," that is, pantomimes
supplied to an unusual extent with spoken matter, were occasionally
produced in times not long past. Hazlitt mentions, only to condemn
however, an entertainment answering to this description. It was called
"Shakespeare _versus_ Harlequin," and was played in 1820. It would
seem to have been a revival of a production of David Garrick's. "It is
called a speaking pantomime," writes Hazlitt; "we had rather it had
said nothing. It is better to act folly than to talk it. The essence
of pantomime is practical absurdity keeping the wits in constant
chase, coming upon one by surprise, and starting off again before you
can arrest the fleeting 'phantom:' the essence of this piece was
prosing stupidity remaining like a mawkish picture on the stage, and
overcoming your impatience by the force of _ennui_. A speaking
pantomime such as this one is not unlike a flying waggon," &c. &c.

"Harlequin _versus_ Shakespeare" was generally voted dreary and a
failure. Of another "speaking pantomime," called "Harlequin Pat and
Harlequin Bat; or, The Giant's Causeway," produced at Covent Garden in
1830, Leigh Hunt writes: "A speaking pantomime is a contradiction in
terms. It is a little too Irish. It is as much as to say: 'Here you
have all dumb-show talking.' This, to be sure, is what made Grimaldi's
talking so good. It was so rare and seasonable that it only proved the
rule by the exception. The clowns of late speak too much. To keep on
saying at every turn, 'Hallo!' or 'Don't!' or 'What do you mean?' only
makes one think that the piece is partly written and not written
well." We may note that Mr. Tyrone Power, the famous Irish comedian,
appeared as harlequin in this pantomime, assisted by a skilled
"double" to accomplish the indispensable attitudinising, dancing, and
jumping through holes in the wall. Power abandoned his share in the
performance after a few nights, however, and the part was then
undertaken by Mr. Keeley, and subsequently by Mr. F. Matthews.

Gradually, speaking was to be heard more and more in pantomimes; and
some forty years ago an attempt was made to invest this form of
theatrical entertainment with peculiar literary distinction. In 1842
the staff of _Punch_, at that time very strong in talent, provided
Covent Garden with a pantomime upon the subject of King John and Magna
Charta. The result, however, disappointed public expectation. _Punch_
was not seen to advantage in his endeavour to assume the guise of
harlequin. At a later date, Mr. Keeley, at the Lyceum, produced a
fairy extravaganza of the Planché pattern, called "The Butterfly's
Ball," and tacked on to it several "comic scenes" for clown and
pantaloon. The experiment was not wholly successful in the first
instance; but by degrees the burlesque leaven affected the pantomimic
constitution, and pantomimes came to be what we find them at present.
The custom of interrupting the harlequinade by the exhibition of
dioramic views, at one time contrived annually by Clarkson Stanfield,
expired about thirty years ago; as a substitute for these came the
gorgeous transformation scenes, traceable to the grand displays which
were wont to conclude Mr. Planché's extravaganzas at the Lyceum
Theatre, when under the management of Madame Vestris. Mr. Planché has
himself described how the scene-painter came by degrees to take the
dramatist's place in the theatre. "Year after year Mr. Beverley's
powers were taxed to outdo his former outdoings. The last scene became
the first in the estimation of the management. The most complicated
machinery, the most costly materials were annually put into
requisition, until their bacon was so buttered it was impossible to
save it. As to me, I was positively painted out. Nothing was
considered brilliant but the last scene. Dutch metal was in the
ascendant." This was some years ago. But any change that may have
occurred in the situation has hardly been for the better. The author
ousted the mute; and now the author, in his turn, is overcome by the
scene-painter, the machinist, and the upholsterer.



The bird which saved the Capitol has ruined many a play. "Goose," "to
be goosed," "to get the big-bird," signifies to be hissed, says the
"Slang Dictionary." This theatrical cant term is of ancient date. In
the induction to Marston's comedy of "What You Will," 1607, it is
asked if the poet's resolve shall be "struck through with the blirt of
a goose breath?" Shakespeare makes no mention of goose in this sense,
but he refers now and then to hissing as the playgoers' method of
indicating disapproval. "Mistress Page, remember you your cue," says
Ford's wife in "The Merry Wives of Windsor." "I warrant thee," replies
Mistress Page, "if I do not act it, hiss me!" In the Roman theatres it
is well known that the spectators pronounced judgment upon the efforts
of the gladiators and combatants of the arena by silently turning
their thumbs up or down, decreeing death in the one case and life in
the other. Hissing, however, even at this time, was the usual method
of condemning the public speaker of distasteful opinions. In one of
Cicero's letters there is record of the orator Hortensius, "who
attained old age without once incurring the disgrace of being hissed."
The prologues of Ben Jonson and Beaumont and Fletcher frequently
deprecate the hissing of the audience.

But theatrical censure, not content with imitating the goose,
condescended to borrow from another of the inferior animals--the cat.
Addison devoted one of his papers in "The Spectator" to a Dissertation
upon Catcalls. In order to make himself master of his subject, he
professed to have purchased one of these instruments, though not
without great difficulty, "being informed at two or three toy-shops
that the players had lately bought them all up." He found that
antiquaries were much divided in opinion as to the origin of the
catcall. A fellow of the Royal Society had concluded, from the
simplicity of its make and the uniformity of its sound, that it was
older than any of the inventions of Jubal. "He observes very well that
musical instruments took their first rise from the notes of birds and
other melodious animals, 'and what,' says he, 'was more natural than
for the first ages of mankind to imitate the voice of a cat that lived
under the same roof with them?' He added that the cat had contributed
more to harmony than any other animal; as we are not only beholden to
her for this wind instrument, but for our string music in general."
The essayist, however, is disposed to hold that the catcall is
originally a piece of English music. "Its resemblance to the voice of
some of our British songsters, as well as the use of it, which is
peculiar to our nation, confirms me in this opinion." He mentions that
the catcall has quite a contrary effect to the martial instrument then
in use; and instead of stimulating courage and heroism, sinks the
spirits, shakes the nerves, curdles the blood, and inspires despair
and consternation at a surprising rate. "The catcall has struck a damp
into generals, and frightened heroes off the stage. At the first sound
of it I have seen a crowned head tremble, and a princess fall into
fits." He concludes with mention of an ingenious artist who teaches to
play on it by book, and to express by it the whole art of dramatic
criticism. "He has his bass and his treble catcall: the former for
tragedy, the latter for comedy; only in tragi-comedies they may both
play together in concert. He has a particular squeak to denote the
violation of each of the unities, and has different sounds to show
whether he aims at the poet or the player," &c.

The conveyance of a catcall to the theatre evidences a predisposition
to uproarious censure. Hissing may be, in the nature of impromptu
criticism, suddenly provoked by something held to be offensive in the
representation; but a playgoer could scarcely have armed himself with
a catcall without a desire and an intention of performing upon his
instrument in any case. Of old, audiences would seem to have
delighted in disturbance upon very light grounds. Theatrical rioting
was of common occurrence. The rioters were in some sort a disciplined
body, and proceeded systematically. Their plan of action had been
previously agreed upon. It was a rule that the ladies should be
politely handed out of the theatre before the commencement of any
violent acts of hostility; and this disappearance of the ladies from
among the audience was always viewed by the management as rather an
alarming hint of what might be expected. Then wine was sent for into
the pit, the candles were thrown down, and the gentlemen drew their
swords. They prepared to climb over the partitions of the orchestra
and to carry the stage by assault. Now and then they made havoc of the
decorations of the house, and cut and slashed the curtains, hangings,
and scenery. At Drury Lane, in 1740, when a riot took place in
consequence of the non-appearance of Madame Chateauneuf, a favourite
French dancer, a noble marquis deliberately proposed that the theatre
should be fired, and a pile of rubbish was forthwith heaped upon the
stage in order to carry into effect this atrocious suggestion. At the
Haymarket Theatre, in 1749, the audience, enraged at the famous Bottle
Conjurer hoax, were incited by the Culloden Duke of Cumberland to pull
down the house! The royal prince stood up in his box waving his drawn
sword, which someone, however, ventured to wrest from his grasp. The
interior fittings of the theatre were completely destroyed; the
furniture and hangings being carried into the street and made a
bonfire of, the curtain surmounting the flaming heap like a gigantic
flag. A riot at the Lincoln's Inn Fields, in 1721, led to George I.'s
order that in future a guard should attend the performances. This was
the origin of the custom that long prevailed of stationing sentries on
either side of the proscenium during representations at the patent
theatres. Of late years the guards have been relegated to the outside
of the buildings. On the occasion of state visits of royalty to the
theatre, however--although these are now, perhaps, to be counted among
things of the past--Beefeaters upon the stage form an impressive part
of the ceremonial.

Theatrical rioting has greatly declined in violence, as well it might,
since the O.P. saturnalia of disturbance, which lasted some sixty-six
nights at Covent Garden Theatre in 1809. Swords were no longer worn,
but the rioters made free use of their fists, called in professional
pugilists as their allies, and in addition to catcalls, armed
themselves with bells, post-horns, whistles, and watchmen's rattles.
The O.P. riots may be said to have abolished the catcall, but they
established "goose." Captures of the rioters were occasionally made by
Brandon, the courageous box-office keeper, and they were charged at
Bow Street Police Court with persistent hissing, with noisily crying
"Silence!" and with "unnatural coughing." The charges were not
proceeded with, but one of the accused, Mr. Clifford, a barrister,
brought an action against Brandon for false imprisonment. In this case
the Court of King's Bench decided that, although the audience in a
public theatre have a right to express the feelings excited at the
moment by the performance, and in this manner to applaud or hiss any
piece which is represented, or any performer; yet if a number of
persons, having come to the theatre with a predetermined purpose of
interrupting the performance, for this end make a great noise so as to
render the actors inaudible, though without offering personal violence
or doing injury to the house, they are in law guilty of a riot.
Serjeant Best, the counsel for the plaintiff, urged that, as plays and
players might be hissed, managers should be liable to their share;
they should be controlled by public opinion; Garrick and others had
yielded cheerfully to the jurisdiction of the pit without a thought of
appealing to Westminster Hall. "Bells and rattles," added the
serjeant, "may be new to the pit; but catcalls, which are equally
stunning, are as old as the English drama." Apparently, however, the
catcall, its claim to antiquity notwithstanding, was not favourably
viewed by the court. In summing up, Chief Justice Mansfield observed:
"I cannot tell on what grounds many people think they have a right, at
a theatre, to make such a prodigious noise as to prevent others
hearing what is going forward on the stage. Theatres are not absolute
necessaries of life, and any person may stay away who does not approve
of the manner in which they are managed. If the prices of admission
are unreasonable, the evil will cure itself. People will not go, and
the proprietors will be ruined, unless they lower their demand. If the
proprietors have acted contrary to the conditions of the patent, the
patent itself may be set aside by a writ of _scire facias_ in the
Court of Chancery." To the great majority of playgoers it probably
occurred that hissing was a simpler and more summary remedy of their
grievances and relief to their feelings than any the Court of Chancery
was likely to afford. In due time, however, came free trade in the
drama and the abolition of the special privileges and monopolies too
long enjoyed by the patent theatres.

After the failure of his luckless farce, "Mr. H.," Charles Lamb wrote
to Wordsworth: "A hundred hisses (hang the word! I wrote it like
_kisses_--how different!), a hundred hisses outweigh a thousand claps.
The former come more directly from the heart." The reception of the
little play had been of a disastrous kind, and Lamb, sitting in the
front row of the pit, is said to have joined in condemning his own
work, and to have hissed and hooted as loudly as any of his
neighbours. "I had many fears; the subject was not substantial enough.
John Bull must have solider fare than a letter. We are pretty stout
about it; have had plenty of condoling friends; but, after all, we had
rather it should have succeeded. You will see the prologue in most of
the morning papers. It was received with such shouts as I never
witnessed to a prologue. It was attempted to be encored.... The
quantity of friends we had in the house--my brother and I being in
public offices, &c.--was astonishing, but they yielded at last to a
few hisses." "Mr. H." could probably in no case have achieved any
great success, but it may be that its failure was precipitated by the
indiscreet cordiality of its author's "quantity of friends." They were
too eager to express approbation, and distributed their applause
injudiciously. The pace at which they started could not be sustained.
As Monsieur Auguste, the famous _chef des claqueurs_ at the Paris
Opera House, explained to Doctor Véron, the manager, "_Il ne fallait
pas trop chauffer le premier acte; qu'on devait, au contraire,
réserver son courage et ses forces pour enlever le dernier acte et le
dénoûment_." He admitted that he should not hesitate to award three
rounds of applause to a song in the last act, to which, if it had
occurred earlier in the representation, he should have given one round
only. Lamb's friends knew nothing of this sound theory of systematised
applause. They expended their ammunition at the commencement of the
struggle, and when they were, so to say, out of range. It was one of
Monsieur Auguste's principles of action that public opinion should
never be outraged or affronted; it might be led and encouraged, but
there should be no attempt to drive it. "Above all things, respect the
public," he said to his subordinates. Nothing so much stimulates the
disapprobation of the unbiassed as extravagant applause. Reaction
certainly ensues; men begin to hiss by way of self-assertion, and out
of self-respect. They resent an attempt to coerce their opinion, and
to compel a favourable verdict in spite of themselves. The attempt to
encore the prologue to "Mr. H." was most unwise. It was a strong
prologue, but the play was weak. The former might have been left to
the good sense of the general public; it was the latter that
especially demanded the watchful support of the author's friends. The
infirm need crutches, not the robust. The playbills announced, "The
new farce of 'Mr. H.,' performed for the first time last night, was
received by an overflowing audience with universal applause, and will
be repeated for the second time to-morrow." Such are playbills. "Mr.
H." never that morrow saw. "'Tis withdrawn, and there's an end of it,"
wrote Lamb to Wordsworth.

Hissing is no doubt a dreadful sound--a word of fear unpleasing to the
ear of both playwright and player. For there is no revoking, no
arguing down, no remedying a hiss; it has simply to be endured.
Playgoers have a giant's strength in this respect; but it must be said
for them, that of late years at any rate, they have rarely used it
tyrannously, like a giant. Of all the dramatists, perhaps Fielding
treated hissing with the greatest indifference. In 1743, his comedy of
"The Wedding Day" was produced. Garrick had in vain implored him to
suppress a scene which he urged would certainly endanger the success
of the piece. "If the scene is not a good one, let them find it out,"
said Fielding. As had been foreseen, an uproar ensued in the theatre.
The actor hastened to the green-room, where the author was cheering
his spirits with a bottle of champagne. Surveying Garrick's rueful
countenance, Fielding inquired: "What's the matter? Are they hissing
me now?" "Yes, the very passage I wanted you to retrench. I knew it
wouldn't do. And they've so horribly frightened me I shall not be
right again the whole night." "Oh," cried the author, "I did not give
them credit for it. So they have found it out, have they?" Upon the
failure of his farce of "Eurydice," he produced an occasional piece
entitled "Eurydice Hissed," in which Mrs. Charke, the daughter of
Colley Cibber, sustained the part of Pillage, a dramatic author.
Pillage is about to produce a new play, and one of his friends
volunteers to "clap every good thing till I bring the house down."
"That won't do," Pillage sagaciously replies; "the town of its own
accord will applaud what they like; you must stand by me when they
dislike. I don't desire any of you to clap unless when you hear a
hiss. Let that be your cue for clapping." Later in the play three
gentlemen enter, and in Shakespearean fashion discuss in blank verse
the fate of Pillage's production.

    THIRD GENTLEMAN. Oh friends, all's lost! Eurydice is damned.

    SECOND GENTLEMAN. Ha! damned! A few short moments past I came
    From the pit door and heard a loud applause.

    THIRD GENTLEMAN. 'Tis true at first the pit seemed greatly pleased,
    And loud applauses through the benches rang;
    But as the plot began to open more
    (A shallow plot) the claps less frequent grew,
    Till by degrees a gentle hiss arose;
    This by a catcall from the gallery
    Was quickly seconded: then followed claps;
    And 'twixt long claps and hisses did succeed
    A stern contention; victory being dubious.
    So hangs the conscience, doubtful to determine
    When honesty pleads here, and there a bribe.

           *       *       *       *       *

    But it was mighty pleasant to behold
    When the damnation of the farce was sure,
    How all those friends who had begun the claps
    With greatest vigour strove who first should hiss
    And show disapprobation.

Surely no dramatist ever jested more over his own discomfiture. In
publishing "Eurydice" he described it as "a farce, as it was d--d at
the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane." This was a following of Ben Jonson's
example, who, publishing his "New Inn," makes mention of it as a
comedy "never acted, but most negligently played by some of the king's
servants, and more squeamishly beheld and censured by others the
king's subjects, 1629; and now, at last, set at liberty to the
readers, his majesty's servants and subjects, to be judged of, 1631."

There is something pathetic in the way Southerne, the veteran
dramatist, in 1726, bore the condemnation of his comedy of "Money the
Mistress," at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre. The audience hissed
unmercifully. Rich, the manager, asked the old man, as he stood in the
wings, "if he heard what they were doing?" "No, sir," said Southerne
calmly, "I'm very deaf." On the first representation of "She Stoops to
Conquer," a solitary hiss was heard during the fifth act at the
improbability of Mrs. Hardcastle, in her own garden, supposing herself
forty miles off on Crackskull Common. "What's that?" cried Goldsmith,
not a little alarmed at the sound. "Psha! doctor," replied Colman,
"don't be afraid of a squib when we have been sitting these two hours
on a barrel of gunpowder." Goldsmith is said never to have forgiven
Colman his ill-timed pleasantry. The hiss seems to have been really a
solitary and exceptional one. It was ascribed by one journal to
Cumberland, by another to Hugh Kelly, and by a third, in a parody on
"Ossian," to Macpherson, who was known to be hostilely inclined
towards Johnson and all his friends. The disapprobation excited by the
capital scene of the bailiffs in Goldsmith's earlier comedy, "The
Good-natured Man," had been of a more general and alarming kind,
however, and was only appeased by the omission of this portion of the
work. Goldsmith suffered exquisite distress. Before his friends, at
the club in Gerrard Street, he exerted him greatly to hide the fact of
his discomfiture; chatted gaily and noisily, and even sang his
favourite comic song with which he was wont to oblige the company only
on special occasions. But alone with Johnson he fairly broke down,
confessed the anguish of his heart, burst into tears, and swore he
would never write more. The condemnation incurred by "The Rivals," on
its first performance, led to its being withdrawn for revision and
amendment. In his preface to the published play Sheridan wrote: "I see
no reason why an author should not regard a first-night's audience as
a candid and judicious friend attending, in behalf of the public, at
his last rehearsal. If he can dispense with flattery, he is sure at
least of sincerity, and even though the annotation be rude, he may
rely upon the justness of the comment." This is calm and complacent
enough, but he proceeds with some warmth: "As for the little puny
critics who scatter their peevish strictures in private circles, and
scribble at every author who has the eminence of being unconnected
with them, as they are usually spleen-swoln from a vain idea of
increasing their consequence, there will always be found a petulance
and illiberality in their remarks, which should place them as far
beneath the notice of a gentleman, as their original dulness had sunk
them from the level of the most unsuccessful author." This reads like
a sentence from "The School for Scandal."

In truth, hissing is very hard to endure. Lamb treated the misfortune
of "Mr. H." as lightly as he could, yet it is plain he took his
failure much to heart. In his letter signed Semel-Damnatus, upon
"Hissing at the Theatres," he is alternately merry and sad over his
defeat as a dramatist. "Is it not a pity," he asks, "that the sweet
human voice which was given man to speak with, to sing with, to
whisper tones of love in, to express compliance, to convey a favour,
or to grant a suit--that voice, which in a Siddons or a Braham rouses
us, in a siren Catalani charms and captivates us--that the musical
expressive human voice should be converted into a rival of the noises
of silly geese and irrational venomous snakes? I never shall forget
the sounds on my night!" He urges that the venial mistake of the poor
author, "who thought to please in the act of filling his pockets, for
the sum of his demerits amounts to no more than that," is too severely
punished; and he adds, "the provocations to which a dramatic genius is
exposed from the public are so much the more vexatious as they are
removed from any possibility of retaliation, the hope of which
sweetens most other injuries; for the public never writes itself." He
concludes with an account, written in an Addisonian vein, of a club to
which he had the honour to belong. "There are fourteen of us, who are
all authors that have been once in our lives what is called 'damned.'
We meet on the anniversaries of our respective nights, and make
ourselves merry at the expense of the public.... To keep up the memory
of the cause in which we suffered, as the ancients sacrificed a goat,
a supposed unhealthy animal, to Æsculapius, on our feast-nights we cut
up a goose, an animal typical of the popular voice, to the deities of
Candour and Patient Hearing. A zealous member of the society once
proposed that we should revive the obsolete luxury of viper-broth;
but, the stomachs of some of the company rising at the proposition, we
lost the benefit of that highly salutary and antidotal dish."

It is to be observed that when a play is hissed there is this
consolation at the service of those concerned: they can shift the
burden of reproach. The author is at liberty to say: "It was the fault
of the actors. Read my play, you will see that it did not deserve the
cruel treatment it experienced." And the actor can assert: "I was not
to blame. I did but speak the words that were set down for me. My fate
is hard--I have to bear the burden of another's sins." And in each
case these are reasonably valid pleas. In the hour of triumph,
however, it is certain that the author is apt to be forgotten, and
that the lion's share of success is popularly awarded to the players.
For the dramatist is a vague, impalpable, invisible personage; whereas
the actor is a vital presence upon the scene; he can be beheld, noted,
and listened to; it is difficult to disconnect him from the humours he
exhibits, from the pathos he displays, from the speeches he utters.
Much may be due to his own merit; but still his debt to the dramatist
is not to be wholly ignored. The author is applauded or hissed, as the
case may be, by proxy. But altogether it is perhaps not surprising
that the proxy should oftentimes forget his real position, and
arrogate wholly to himself the applause due to his principal.

High and low, from Garrick to the "super," it is probably the actor's
doom, for more or less reasons, at some time or another, to be hissed.
He is, as Members of Parliament are fond of saying, "in the hands of
the house," and may be ill-considered by it. Anyone can hiss, and one
goose makes many. Lamb relates how he once saw Elliston, sitting in
state, in the tarnished green-room of the Olympic Theatre, while
before him was brought for judgment, on complaint of prompter, "one of
those little tawdry things that flirt at the tails of choruses--the
pertest little drab--a dirty fringe and appendage of the lamp's
smoke--who, it seems, on some disapprobation expressed by a 'highly
respectable' audience, had precipitately quitted her station on the
boards and withdrawn her small talents in disgust. 'And how dare you,'
said the manager, 'how dare you, madam, without a notice, withdraw
yourself from your theatrical duties?' 'I was hissed, sir.' 'And you
have the presumption to decide upon the taste of the town?' 'I don't
know that, sir, but I will never stand to be hissed,' was the
rejoinder of Young Confidence. Then, gathering up his features into
one significant mass of wonder, pity, and expostulatory
indignation--in a lesson never to have been lost upon a creature less
forward than she who stood before him--his words were these: 'They
have hissed ME!'"

It is understood that this argument failed in its effect, for, after
all, a hiss is not to be in such wise excused or explained away; its
application is far too direct and personal. "Ladies and gentlemen, it
was not I that shot the arrow!" said Braham to his audience, when some
bungling occurred in the course of his performance of William Tell,
and the famous apple remained uninjured upon the head of the hero's
son. If derision was moved by this bungling, still more did the
singer's address and confession excite the mirth of the spectators. To
another singer, failure, or the dread of failure, was fraught with
more tragic consequence. For some sixteen years Adolphe Nourritt had
been the chief tenor of the Paris Opera House. He had "created" the
leading characters in "Robert," "Les Huguenots," "La Juive,"
"Gustave," and "Masaniello." He resigned his position precipitately
upon the advent of Duprez. The younger singer afflicted the elder with
a kind of panic. The news that Duprez was among his audience was
sufficient to paralyse his powers, to extinguish his voice. He left
France for Italy. His success was unquestionable, but he had lost
confidence in himself; a deep dejection settled upon him, his
apprehension of failure approached delirium. At last he persuaded
himself that the applause he won from a Neapolitan audience was purely
ironical, was but scoffing ill-disguised. At five in the morning, on
the 8th of March, 1839, he flung himself from the window of an upper
floor, and was picked up in the street quite dead. Poor Nourrit! he
was a man of genius in his way; but for him there would have been no
grand duet in the fourth act of "Les Huguenots," no cavatina for
Eleazar in "La Juive;" and to his inventiveness is to be ascribed the
ballet of "La Sylphide," which Taglioni made so famous.

It is odd to hear of an actor anxious for "goose," and disappointed at
not obtaining it. Yet something like this happened once during the
O.P. riots. Making sure that there would be a disturbance in the
theatre, Mr. Murray, one of John Kemble's company, thought it needless
to commit his part to memory; he was so certain that he should not be
listened to. But the uproar suddenly ceased; there was a lull in the
storm. The actor bowed, stammered, stared, and was what is called in
the language of the theatre "dead stuck." However, his mind was soon
at ease; to do him justice the audience soon hissed him to his heart's
content, and perhaps even in excess of that measure. Subsequently he
resolved, riot or no riot, to learn something of his part.



Epilogues went out of fashion with pigtails, the public having at last
decided that neither of these appendages was really necessary or
particularly ornamental; but a considerable time elapsed before this
opinion was definitively arrived at. The old English moralities or
moral plays usually concluded, as Mr. Payne Collier notes, with an
epilogue in which prayers were offered up by the actors for the king,
queen, clergy, and sometimes for the commons; the latest instance of
this practice being the epilogue to a play of 1619, "Two Wise Men and
All the Rest Fools." "It resteth now," says the "epiloguiser," "that
we render you very humble and hearty thanks, and that all our hearts
pray for the king and his family's enduring happiness, and our
country's perpetual welfare. _Si placet, plaudite._" So also the
dancer entrusted with the delivery of the epilogue to Shakespeare's
"Second Part of King Henry IV." may be understood as referring to this
matter, in the concluding words of his address: "My tongue is weary;
when my legs are too, I will bid you good-night: and so kneel down
before you--but, indeed, to pray for the queen." And to this old
custom of loyal prayer for the reigning sovereign has been traced the
addition of the words, "Vivat rex," or "Vivat regina," which were wont
to appear in the playbills, until quite recent times, when our
programmes became the advertising _media_ of the perfumers.

The main object of the epilogue, however, was as Massinger has
expressed it in the concluding address of his comedy, "Believe as you

    The end of epilogues is to inquire
    The censure of the play, or to desire
    Pardon for what's amiss;

and as Theseus states the matter in "The Midsummer Night's Dream:" "No
epilogue, I pray you, for your play needs no excuse." Sometimes a sort
of bluntness of speech was affected, as in the epilogue to one of
Beaumont and Fletcher's comedies:

    Why there should be an epilogue to a play
    I know no cause. The old and usual way
    For which they were made was to entreat the grace
    Of such as were spectators. In this place
    And time, 'tis to no purpose; for I know,
    What you resolve already to bestow
    Will not be altered, whatsoe'er I say
    In the behalf of us, and of the play;
    Only to quit our doubts, if you think fit,
    You may or cry it up or silence it.

It was in order, no doubt, the more to conciliate the audience that
epilogues assumed, oftentimes, a playfulness of tone that would
scarcely have been tolerated in the case of prologues. The delivery of
an epilogue by a woman (i.e. by a boy playing the part of a woman) was
clearly unusual at the time of the first performance of "As You Like
It." "It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue," says
Rosalind; "but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the
prologue. If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a
good play needs no epilogue. Yet to good wine they do use good bushes;
and good plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues." There
can be little doubt that all Shakespeare's plays were originally
followed by epilogues, although but very few of these have been
preserved. The only one that seems deficient in dignity, and therefore
appropriateness, is that above quoted, spoken by the dancer, at the
conclusion of "The Second Part of King Henry IV." In no case is direct
appeal made, on the author's behalf, to the tender mercies of the
audience, although the epilogue to "King Henry VIII." seems to
entertain misgivings as to the fate of the play:

    'Tis ten to one this play can never please
    All that are here. Some come to take their ease,
    An act or two; but those we fear,
    We have frighted with our trumpets; so, 'tis clear
    They'll say, 'tis naught: others to hear the city
    Abused extremely and to cry--_that's witty!_
    Which we have not done neither; that, I fear,
    All the expected good we're like to hear
    For this play at this time is only in
    The merciful construction of good women:
    For such a one we showed them.

Prospero delivers the epilogue to "The Tempest;" and the concluding
lines of "The Midsummer Night's Dream," and of "All's Well that Ends
Well"--which are not described as epilogues, and should, perhaps,
rather be viewed as "tags"--are spoken by Puck and the King. The
epilogues to "King Henry V." and "Pericles" are of course spoken by
the Chorus and Gower, respectively, who, throughout those plays, have
favoured the spectators with much discourse and explanation. "Twelfth
Night" terminates with the clown's nonsense song, which may be an
addition due less to the dramatist than to the comic actor who first
played the part.

The epilogues of the Elizabethan stage, so far as they have come down
to us, are, as a rule, brief and discreet enough; but, after the
Restoration, epilogues acquired greater length and much more
impudence, to say the least of it, while they clearly had gained
importance in the consideration of the audience. And now it became the
custom to follow up a harrowing tragedy with a most broadly comic
epilogue. The heroine of the night--for the delivering of epilogues
now devolved frequently upon the actresses--who, but a few moments
before, had fallen a most miserable victim to the dagger or the bowl,
as the case might be, suddenly reappeared upon the stage, laughing,
alive, and, it may be said, kicking, and favoured the audience with an
address designed expressly, it would seem, so to make their cheeks
burn with blushes that their recent tears might the sooner be dried
up. It is difficult to conceive now that certain of the prologues and
epilogues of Dryden and his contemporaries could ever have been
delivered, at any time, upon any stage. Yet they were assuredly
spoken, and often by women, apparently to the complete satisfaction of
the playgoers of the time. But, concerning the scandalous condition of
the stage of the Restoration, there is no need to say anything
further. The ludicrous epilogue, which has been described as the
unnatural tacking of a comic tale to a tragical head, was certainly
popular, however, and long continued so. It was urged, "that the minds
of the audience must be refreshed, and gentlemen and ladies not sent
away to their own homes with too dismal and melancholy thoughts about
them." Certain numbers of "The Spectator" were expressly devoted to
the discussion of this subject, in the interest, it is now apparent,
of Ambrose Philips, who had brought upon the stage an adaptation of
Racine's "Andromaque," and who enjoyed the zealous friendship of
Addison and Steele. To the tragedy of "The Distressed Mother," as it
was called, which can hardly have been seen in the theatre since the
late Mr. Macready, as Orestes, made his first bow to a London audience
in 1816, an epilogue had been added which had the good fortune to be
accounted the most admirable production of its class. Steele, under
the signature of "Physibulus," wrote to describe his visit to Drury
Lane, in company with his friend Sir Roger, to witness the new
performance. "You must know, sir, that it is always my custom, when I
have been well entertained at a new tragedy, to make my retreat before
the facetious epilogue enters; not but that these pieces are often
very well written, but, having paid down my half-crown, and made a
fair purchase of as much of the pleasing melancholy as the poet's art
can afford me, or my own nature admit of, I am willing to carry some
of it home with me, and cannot endure to be at once tricked out of
all, though by the wittiest dexterity in the world." He describes Sir
Roger as entering with equal pleasure into both parts, and as much
satisfied with Mrs. Oldfield's gaiety as he had been before with
Andromache's greatness; and continues: "Whether this were no more than
an effect of the knight's peculiar humanity, pleased to find that, at
last, after all the tragical doings, everything was safe and well, I
do not know; but, for my own part, I must confess I was so
dissatisfied, that I was sorry the poet had saved Andromache, and
could heartily have wished that he had left her stone dead upon the
stage. I found my soul, during the action, gradually worked up to the
highest pitch, and felt the exalted passion which all generous minds
conceive at the sight of virtue in distress.... But the ludicrous
epilogue in the close extinguished all my ardour, and made me look
upon all such achievements as downright silly and romantic." To this
letter a reply, signed "Philomedes," appeared in "The Spectator" a few
days later, expressing, in the first place, amazement at the attack
upon the epilogue, and calling attention to its extraordinary success.
"The audience would not permit Mrs. Oldfield to go off the stage the
first night till she had repeated it twice; the second night, the
noise of the _ancoras_ was as loud as before, and she was obliged
again to speak it twice; the third night it was still called for a
second time, and, in short, contrary to all other epilogues, which are
dropped after the third representation of the play, this has already
been repeated nine times." "Philomedes" then points out that, although
the prologue and epilogue were real parts of ancient tragedy, they are
on the English stage distinct performances, entirely detached from the
play, and in no way essential to it. "The moment the play ends," he
argues, "Mrs. Oldfield is no more Andromache, but Mrs. Oldfield; and
though the poet had left Andromache 'stone dead upon the stage' ...
Mrs. Oldfield might still have spoken a merry epilogue;" and he refers
to the well-known instance of Nell Gwynne, in the epilogue to Dryden's
tragedy of "Tyrannic Love," "where there is not only a death but a
martyrdom," rising from the stage upon which she was supposed to be
lying stone dead--an attempt having been made to remove her by those
gentlemen "whose business it is to carry off the slain in our English
tragedies"--and breaking out "into that abrupt beginning of what was a
very ludicrous but at the same time thought a very good epilogue:

    "Hold! are you mad? you damned confounded dog,
    I am to rise and speak the epilogue!"

"This diverting manner," "Philomedes" proceeds, "was always practised
by Mr. Dryden, who, if he was not the best writer of tragedies in his
time, was allowed by everyone to have the happiest turn for a prologue
or an epilogue." And he further cites the example of a comic epilogue
known to be written by Prior, to the tragedy of "Phædra and
Hippolita," Addison having supplied the work with a prologue
ridiculing the Italian operas. He refers also to the French stage:
"Since everyone knows that nation, who are generally esteemed to have
as polite a taste as any in Europe, always close their tragic
entertainment with what they call a _petite pièce_, which is purposely
designed to raise mirth and send away the audience well pleased. The
same person who has supported the chief character in the tragedy very
often plays the principal part in the _petite pièce_; so that I have
myself seen at Paris Orestes and Lubin acted the same night by the
same man."

This famous epilogue to "The Distressed Mother" is spoken by
Andromache, and opens with the following lines, which are certainly
flippant enough:

    I hope you'll own that with becoming art
    I've played my game and topped the widow's part!
    My spouse, poor man, could not live out the play,
    But died commodiously on his wedding-day;
    While I, his relict, made, at one bold fling,
    Myself a princess, and young Sty a king.

Of this address the reputed author was Eustace Budgell, of the Inner
Temple, whose name is usually found printed in connection with
it--"the worthless Budgell," as Johnson calls him--"the man who calls
me cousin," as Addison used contemptuously to describe him. In
Johnson's Life of Ambrose Philips, however, it is stated that Addison
was himself the real author of the epilogue, but that "when it had
been at first printed with his name he came early in the morning,
before the copies were distributed, and ordered it to be given to
Budgell, that it might add weight to the solicitation which he was
then making for a place." It is probable, moreover, that Addison was
not particularly anxious to own a production which, after all, was but
a following of an example so questionable as Prior's epilogue to
"Phædra," above mentioned. The controversy in "The Spectator" was,
without doubt, a matter of pre-arrangement between Addison and Steele,
for the entertainment of the public and the increase of the fame of
Philips; and the letter of "Philomedes," which with the epilogue in
question has been often ascribed to Budgell, was probably also the
work of Addison. For all the rather unaccountable zeal of Addison and
Steele on behalf of their friend, however, the reputation of Philips
has not thriven; he is chiefly remembered now by the nickname of
Namby-Pamby, bestowed on him by Pope, who had always vehemently
contested his claims to distinction. As Johnson states the case: "Men
sometimes suffer by injudicious kindness; Philips became ridiculous,
without his own fault, by the absurd admiration of his friends, who
decorated him with honorary garlands which the first breath of
contradiction blasted." Johnson, by-the-way, had at the age of
nineteen written a new epilogue to "The Distressed Mother," for some
young ladies who designed an amateur performance of that still-admired
tragedy. The epilogue was intended to be delivered by "a lady who was
to personate the ghost of Hermione."

But although protests were now and then, as in the case of "The
Distressed Mother," raised against the absurdity of the custom, comic
epilogues to tragic plays long remained in favour with the patrons of
the stage. Pointed reference to this fact is contained in the epilogue
spoken by the beautiful Mrs. Hartley to Murphy's tragedy of "Alzuma,"
produced at Covent Garden in 1773:

    Our play is o'er; now swells each throbbing breast
    With expectation of the coming jest.
    By Fashion's law, whene'er the Tragic Muse
    With sympathetic tears each eye bedews;
    When some bright Virtue at her call appears.
    Waked from the dead repose of rolling years;
    When sacred worthies she bids breathe anew,
    That men may be what she displays to view;
    By fashion's law with light fantastic mien
    The Comic Sister trips it o'er the scene;
    Armed at all points with wit and wanton wiles,
    Plays off her airs, and calls forth all her smiles;
    Till each fine feeling of the heart be o'er,
    And the gay wonder how they wept before!

To Murphy's more famous tragedy of "The Grecian Daughter," Garrick
supplied an epilogue, which commences:

    The Grecian Daughter's compliments to all;
    Begs that for Epilogue you will not call;
    For leering, giggling, would be out of season,
    And hopes by me you'll hear a little reason, &c.

The epilogue to Home's tragedy of "Douglas" is simply a remonstrance
against the employment of "comic wit" on such an occasion:

    An Epilogue I asked; but not one word
    Our bard will write. He vows 'tis most absurd
    With comic wit to contradict the strain
    Of tragedy, and make your sorrows vain.
    Sadly he says that pity is the best
    And noblest passion of the human breast;
    For when its sacred streams the heart o'erflow
    In gushes pleasure with the tide of woe;
    And when its waves retire, like those of Nile,
    They leave behind them such a golden soil
    That there the virtues without culture grow,
    There the sweet blossoms of affection blow.
    These were his words; void of delusive art
    I felt them; for he spoke them from his heart.
    Nor will I now attempt with witty folly
    To chase away celestial melancholy.

Apart from the epilogues that pertained to particular plays, and could
hardly be detached from them, were the "occasional epilogues," written
with no special relevancy to any dramatic work, but rather designed to
be recitations or monologue entertainments, that could be delivered at
any time, as managers, players, and public might decide. Garrick, who
highly esteemed addresses of the class, was wont, in the character of
"a drunken sailor," to recite a much-admired "occasional epilogue."
Early comedians, such as Joe Haines and Pinkethman, now and then
entered upon the scene, "seated upon an ass," to deliver "an
occasional epilogue," with more mirthful effect. Extravagances of this
kind have usually been reserved for benefit-nights, however. In Tom
Brown's works, 1730, there is a print of Haines, mounted on an ass,
appearing in front of the stage, with a view of the side boxes and
pit. An "occasional epilogue" was delivered in 1710, by Powell and
Mrs. Spiller, "on the hardships suffered by lawyers and players in the
Long Vacation."

For some years before their extinction, epilogues had greatly declined
in worth, although their loss of public favour was less apparent. They
were in many cases wretched doggerel, full of slang terms and of
impertinence that was both coarse and dull. With a once famous
epilogue-writer--Miles Peter Andrews, who was also a dramatist,
although, happily, his writings for the stage have now vanished
completely--Gifford deals severely in his "Baviad." "Such is the
reputation this gentleman has obtained for epilogue writing, that the
minor poets of the day, despairing of emulating, are now only
solicitous of assisting him--happy if they can obtain admission for a
couplet or two into the body of his immortal works, and thus secure to
themselves a small portion of that popular applause so lavishly and so
justly bestowed on everything that bears the signature of Miles
Andrews!" A few lines make havoc of quite a covey of "bards" of that

    Too much the applause of fashion I despise;
    For mark to what 'tis given and then declare,
    Mean though I am, if it be worth my care.
    Is it not given to Este's unmeaning dash,
    To Topham's fustian, Colman's flippant trash,
    To Andrews' doggerel, when three wits combine,
    To Morton's catchword, Greathead's idiot line,
    And Holcroft's Shug Lane cant, and Merry's Moorfields whine, &c.

Criticism was not mealy-mouthed in Gifford's day.

The "tag" appears to be following the epilogue to oblivion; for though
it is difficult to differentiate them, the tag must not be confused
with the epilogue, or viewed as merely an abbreviated form of it. As a
rule, the epilogue was divided from the play by the fall of the
curtain, although this could hardly have been the case in regard to
the epilogue mentioned above, delivered by "Mrs. Ellen," as Dryden
calls her, after the tragedy of "Tyrannic Love." But the tag is
usually the few parting words addressed by the leading character in a
play, before the curtain descends upon it, to "our kind friends in
front," entreating their applause. The final _couplets_ of a French
vaudeville, it may be noted, usually contained an appeal of this kind;
otherwise, tags, and epilogues are alike eschewed upon the French
stage. But this "coming forward" of the player, to deliver his tag, is
a practice of old date. The concluding speech in Massinger's "New Way
to Pay Old Debts," addressed to the audience, and commencing--

                  Nothing wants then
    But your allowance--and in that our all
    Is comprehended--

is, according to the old stage direction, to be spoken by Wellborn
"coming forward." So also Cozimo is directed to "come forward," to
address to the audience the last lines of "The Great Duke of

Epilogues have rarely been employed as supplementary acts, continuing
and completing the action of a play, as prologues in modern times have
been converted into introductory chapters, explanatory of events to be
presently exhibited upon the scene. Yet the interminable drama of
"Marie Antoinette," by Signor Paolo Giacometti, in which Madame
Ristori was wont to perform, presents an instance of this kind. "Marie
Antoinette" is in five acts, with a prologue exhibiting the queen's
life at Versailles, in 1786, and an epilogue showing her imprisonment
in the Conciergerie, and her march to the guillotine in the custody of
Samson the executioner.

       *       *       *       *       *

The epilogue spoken, the entertainments are indeed terminated. The
audience move from their seats towards the portals of the playhouse.
The lights are being extinguished; the boxes are about to be covered
over with brown-holland draperies; the prompter has closed his book
and is thinking of moving homewards.

It remains for us only to interchange "Good-byes"--and to separate.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Book of the Play - Studies and Illustrations of Histrionic Story, Life, and Character" ***

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